The Cracow Circle



The History of the Circle

Main Works

Selected Bibliography

 Other Link

Papers and documents on the Circle

 Ryszard Puciato, Thomism and Modern Formal Logic
(RTF file - 51 Kb)


La pensée Catholique et la logique Moderne
Compte rendu de la session spéciale tenue le 26.IX.1936 pendant le III-e Congrés Polonais de Philosophie

 Józef M. Bochenski, On logical "relativism" (1937)
The paper can be also downloaded as a RTF file (26 Kb); click on the icon

 Jan Salamucha, Comparison between Scholastic Logical Tools and Modern Formal Logic (1937)
(RTF file - 26 Kb)

 Jan F. Drewnowski, Neoscholasticism and the Demands of Modern Science (1937)
The paper can be also downloaded as a RTF file (26 Kb); click on the icon


 The History of the Circle

The Cracow Circle represents the most significant expression of Catholic thought between the two World Wars. Founded by a group of theologians and philosophers, it distinguished itself from traditional neo-Thomist circles by its acceptance of the modern formal logic developed in Warsaw, which it applied to both traditional Thomist issues and theological topics. Although its adherents were few and it did not last long (ending with the War, the Nazi invasion of Poland and the consequent suppression of any form of intellectual activity), the Cracow Circle counted a number of prestigious philosophers among its members, above all the Dominican Józef Maria Bochenski (1902-1995) who, after studying law and economics at Lvov and Poznan , devoted himself to philosophy, going to study in Freiburg and then completing his studies in logic at the Angelicum in Rome. Returning to Poland, he studied the history of logic, following the example of Jan Lukasiewicz , and then emigrated to Freiburg after the Second World War. Another distinguished member was Father Jan Salamucha (1903-1944) who studied theology in Warsaw, where he also attended the lectures of Lukasiewicz and Stanislaw Lesniewski and specialised in the history of logic. Salamucha lost his life during the Warsaw Uprising. Finally there was Jan F. Drewnowski (1896-1978) who, after studying physics, mathematics and technical sciences and then philosophy and mathematical logic under the guidance of Lesniewski, Lukasiewicz and Tadeusz Kotarbinski , collaborated with Salamucha in the field of metaphilosophy and Bochenski in the modernisation of traditional philosophy, elaborating a personal logico-symbolic system which was lost during the War. Minor roles in the Circle were played by Boleslaw Sobocinski (1906-1980) and the historian of logic Father Antoni Korcik.
The problem of the relation between the new logic and the traditional way of cultivating philosophy, especially by Catholics, was nothing new. As early as 1927 there had been a controversy following an article by Lukasiewicz proposing a radical reform of philosophy by applying mathematical logic; a number of Thomist philosophers had taken part in the debate (H. Jakubanis, J. Kopacz,
H. Elzenberg and in particular P. Chojnacki), generally adopting a critical attitude towards the theses of this representative of the Lvov-Warsaw School. Both Salamucha and Bochenski had taken part in the discussion.
The School can, however, be said to have started with the publication of a book by Drewnowski (Zarys programu filosoficznego [Lineaments of a Philosophical Programme], "Przeglad Filozoficzny", XXVII, 1934, pp. 3-38, 150-181, 262-292), which can be seen as a sort of manifesto. The book traced the fundamental outlines of a philosophical programme which drew on Lukasiewicz's standpoint and proposed to introduce a range of semiotic problems into gnoseological and ontological thought by reflecting on human knowledge as a system of signs. It also clearly expressed the non-philosophical role of contemporary logic, a thesis which was to be one of the most typical of the School, in opposition to those who wished to bind logic to the specific expressions of Neopositivism. Drewnowski thus set himself at a distance from both the criticism of traditionalists (who saw logic as an impoverishment of philosophy) and the purposes to which the neopositivists intended to put logic, i.e. to clear philosophy of any metaphysical issues, which they considered to be senseless: thanks to the application of logic, in fact, metaphysics and theology would achieve a specific scientific nature that was by no means inferior to that of the natural sciences. To demonstrate this assertion he quoted the
formalisation of the proof of the existence of God "ex motu" , from Thomas Aquinas' Summa contra Gentiles.
In the meanwhile Bochenski had also published an article in 1935 and two more in 1936. The first (Dowód przyczynowy na istnienie Boga w swietle wiary katolickiej [Causal Proof of the Existence of God in the Light of the Catholic Faith], "Woclawek", 1935) is a history of the causal proof in the light of the Catholic faith to demonstrate that it was a constant element of theology, and thus prove its rationalistic vocation. In the first of the 1936 articles (O racjonalizmie i irracjonalizmie katolickim [Catholic Rationalism and Irrationalism], "Verbum", 1936) Bochenski defended the rational nature of the Catholic faith, maintaining that theology is not a collection of sentiments but of statements which have to be logically organised; in the second (W sprawie logistyki [About Logistics], "Verbum", 1936) he supported the programme of Drewnowski and emphasised the continuity between modern logistics and traditional logic, which lies in their common insistence on accuracy. In the same period Salamucha had also put forward his ideas, first of all in his works on the history of logic, then with a series of articles in which he maintained the importance of logic and semantics in the education of young seminarians, and finally with an article (Zza kulis filozofii chrzescijanskiej [Behind the Scenes of Christian Philosophy], "Verbum", 1936) in which he explained the relationship between traditional and contemporary logic, stating that the only alternative to its application in philosophical debate was either to trust in traditional logic at the expense of accuracy or to slip into irrationalism.
When, at the 3rd National Philosophical Conference held at the Catholic Scientific Institute in Cracow on 24-27 September 1936, the innovators - with the spiritual backing of Lukasiewicz, whose pupils they had all been, except for Bochenski - presented their theses in three contributions made by Bochenski, Salamucha and Drewnowski, the clash with Catholic and Thomist traditionalism was inevitable. The subject of the dispute was quite simple: was the new logic really a completion of Aristotelian and Medieval logic? And, more importantly, was the new logic a neutral instrument, lacking in a world view and therefore suitable for a continuation of traditional Thomist themes?
Bochenski's reply to these objections (O "relatywizmie" logistycznym, in Mysl katolicka wobec logiki wspolczesnej [Catholic Thought Versus Contemporary Logic], ed. by K. Michalski, "Studia Gnesnesia", 15, 1937; Engl. transl. in "Axiomathes", 2, 1993) expressed the basic assumptions of the Cracow Circle. Above all, the viewpoint of its members was not merely a reproposal of the theses of contemporary logicians, but provided a personal interpretation in distinguishing between the theses of the philosophy of logic and the contents of logic as such; that is, the principles of modern formal logic are separate from the philosophical opinions expressed by logicians.
Bochenski particularly wished to emphasise the instrumental nature of logic and its philosophically neutral character, in order to separate the destiny of positivistic philosophy from that of the new logic, which was seen as a continuation of the real heritage of Medieval Scholastic philosophy, in contrast with the many contemporary manuals on formal Scholastic logic, which were hostile to logistics. In this context it was therefore of fundamental importance to deny the accusation that logistics was the theoretical nucleus of anti-metaphysical positivism, as propounded by Carnap and the Vienna Circle.
This was associated with an extremely negative view of the state of contemporary Catholic philosophy, which was far from being as avant-garde as Scholasticism had been in its day. Contemporary logic was considered to be the lawful heir of ancient and Medieval logic and it was therefore quite legitimate to apply it to Thomistic philosophy and analysis of the concepts of traditional metaphysics, in the attempt to formalise them. For this purpose it was necessary to replace Scholastic notions with more advanced ones in the field of semiotics, logic and methodology. In short, "the Circle wished to persuade Catholic thinkers and philosophers to adopt the philosophical 'style' cultivated by the Polish school of logic".
However, the Circle's attempts to influence and re-orientate Catholic thought ended "in almost complete failure". According to Bochenski, the reason did not lie "in particular Polish circumstances. It seems to be the result of a reluctance, widespread amongst theologians and philosophers with a different way of thinking, to recognise the significance and importance of mathematical logic and analytical philosophy in all intellectual spheres. The case of the Cracow Circle is a particularly bitter one. Poland is, in fact, one of the few countries in which a school of logic flourished, with an efficient group of Catholic scholars who maintained a rationalistic position. In such a country it was to be expected that a new Catholic philosophy, and above all a new Catholic theology, would develop. Alas, it was not to be".
The School's programme was not devoid of significant results: Bochenski tried to analyse and formalise Thomas Aquinas' proof of the immortality of the soul; Salamucha tried to formalise the proof "ex motu" of existence of God (see a
reconstruction ); Salamucha, Drewnowski and Bochenski conducted interesting analyses of the concept of analogy; and lastly research was carried out into the history of logic, especially Medieval logic, the result of which was Bochenski's well-known history of logic and the great amount of research conducted by Korcik.
Finally, it should recalled that both Bochenski and Drewnowski continued their activity after World War II in the same spirit as in the 30s, albeit no longer in the context of an organised school, and that other philosophers of a Thomist orientation resumed the Circle's programme, trying to develop some of its themes and improve them from a logical and methodological point of view; these themes included the demonstration of the existence of God "ex motu" and "ex contingentia" (J. Bendiek, E. Nieznanski, K. Blachowicz, K. Policki), and new additions such as the formalisation of the argument supporting the immortality of the soul as proposed by Bochenski, or the logical analysis of the traditional doctrine of analogy, predestination, etc. (Bochenski, Nieznanski, C. Oleksy).

 Main works

- Mysl katolicka wobec logiki wspólczesnej (Catholic Thought and Contemporary Logic], ed. by K. Michalski, "Studia Gnesnensia", 15, 1937 (contains the proceedings of the 1936 Cracow Congress).
- J.M. Bochenski, Dowód przyczynowy na istnienie Boga w swietle wiary katolockiej (The Causal Proof of the Existence of God in the Light of the Catholic Faith), "Woclawek", 1935.
- J.M. Bochenski, O racjonalizmie i irracjonalizmie katolickim (Catholic Rationalism and Irrationalism), "Verbum", 1936.
- J.M. Bochenski,W sprawie logistyki (A proposito di logistica), "Verbum", 1936.
- J.M. Bochenski,O "relatywizmie" logistycznym (1937), Engl. transl. On logical "relativism", "Axiomathes", 2 (1993).
- J.F. Drewnowski, Filozofia i precyzja, Tow. Nauk. Katol. Uniw. Lubelskiego, Lublin 1996, pp. 576.
- J.F. Drewnowski, Zarys programu filosoficznego (Lineamenti di un programma filosofico), "Przeglad Filozoficzny", XXVII (1934), pp. 3-38, 150-181, 262-292.
- J.F. Drewnowski, Neoscholastyka wobec wspóczesnych wymogów nauki (1937); Engl. transl. Neoscholasticism and the demands of modern science, "Axiomathes", 2 (1993).
- J. Salamucha, Wiedza i wiara. Wybrane pisma filozoficzne, Tow. Nauk. KUL, Lublin 1997, pp. 612.
- J. Salamucha, Pojecie dedukcji u Arystotelasa e Sw. Tomasa z Akwinu (Il concetto di deduzione in Aristotele e S. Tommaso d'Aquino), Warszawa, 1930.
- J. Salamucha, Dowód "ex motu" na istnienie Boga. Analiza logiczna argumentacji Sw. Tomasza z Akwinu (La prova "ex motu" dell'esistenza di Dio. Analisi dell'argomentazione logica di S. Tommaso d'Aquino), "Collectanea Theologica", XV (1934).
- J. Salamucha, Zza kulis filozofii chrzescijanskiej (Dietro le quinte della filosofia cristiana), "Verbum", 1936
- J. Salamucha, Zestawienie scholastycznych narzedzi logicznych z narzedziami logistycznymi (1937), Engl. transl. Comparisons between scholastic logical tools and modern formal logic, "Axiomathes", 2, 1993.

 Selected bibliography

- J.M. Bochenski, The Cracow Circle, in The Vienna Circle and the Lvov-Warsaw School, ed. by K. Szaniawski, Dordrecht, 1989.
- J. Herbut, John Salamucha's efforts towards the methodological modernization of theistic metaphysics, &laqno;Communication and Cognition», 15 (1982).
- J.J. Jadacki, Orientacje i doktryny filozoficzne. Z dziejów filozofii polskiej, WFiS, UW Warszawa, 1998.
E. Nieznanski, Logical Analysis of Thomism. The Polish Programme that originated in the 1930, in J. Szrednicki (ed.), Initiatives in Logic, Dordrecht, 1987.
- R. Puciato, Thomism and modern formal logic. Remarks on the Cracow Circle, "Axiomathes", 2 (1993).
- Z. Wolak, Neotomizm a szkola lwowsko-Warszawska, Lwów, 1993.

 Otker Links

Bochenski against nominalism (reconstruction in original Polish Notation)

Bochenski on the Notion of Authority (reconstruction)

Salamucha's Proof "ex motu" of the Existence of God (reconstruction)

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