Synopsis

AJDUKIEWICZ’S LIFE AND PERSONALITY

by Jerzy Giedymin

Kazimierz Ajdukiewicz was born in 1890, the son of a civil servant. Tarnopol, the place of his birth, had been since the partitions of Poland in the 1770’s a part of Galicia, a province of the Austrian Empire. Ajdukiewicz completed his secondary education in Lvov and enrolled there at the University to read philosophy, mathematics and physics. In 1912 he was awarded a Ph.D. degree in Philosophy on the basis of a thesis on Kant’s philosophy of space. Among his university teachers in Lvov were, in philosophy 3/4 Kazimierz Twardowski himself a disciple of Franz Brentano, in logic 3/4 Jan Lukasiewicz and, in mathematics 3/4 Waclaw Sierpinski. In 1913 Ajdukiewicz went to Gottingen University where at the time David Hilbert was lecturing on the foundations of mathematics and Edmund Husserl on philosophy. A year later, however, he was conscripted into the Austrian army and served on the Italian front. Toward the end of World War I he joined the newly-formed Polish army, from which he was demobilized in 1920 with the rank of an artillery captain, to return to university life. He was habilitated Docent in Warsaw University in 1920 having submitted a habilitation dissertation entitled “Z metodologii nauk dedukcyjnych” (From the Methodology of Deductive Sciences), Lvov, 1921. At that time he married Maria Twardowska, Kazimierz Twardowski’s daughter; they subsequently had a son and a daughter. Until the outbreak of World War II he was, at first, docent and then professor of philosophy in the universities of Lvov and Warsaw (in Warsaw from 1926 to 1928). During World War II he continued to live with his family in Lvov. Forced under German occupation to earn his living as a clerk, he found time nevertheless to teach in clandestine Polish schools. After the war ended he accepted the Chair of the Methodology and Theory of Science (afterwards re-named the Chair of Logic) in the Faculty of Mathematical and Physical Sciences of the University of Poznan. In the years 1948-52 he was Rector of Poznan’s Adam Mickiewicz University. He left Poznan for Warsaw in 1955. As professor of Logic in the University of Warsaw and head of the Division of Logic in the Institute of Philosophy of the Polish Academy of Science, he continued until retirement in 1961, retaining, however, the latter post after retirement. Ajdukiewicz died in his sleep quite unexpectedly one night in 1963 of heart failure.

By any standard Ajdukiewicz’s academic career in Poland, interrupted only by World War II, was a brilliant one. He achieved all possible academic distinctions and for more than thirty years he exercised a great influence on the development of philosophy and logic in Poland. He was a member of the Polish Academy of Science from its creation after World War II. In the inter-war period he was, together with Lesniewski, Lukasiewicz, Kotarbinski and Tarski, among the most active members of the Polish (Lvov-Warsaw) School of Logic. (On this subject interested readers may consult Z. Jordan: The Development of Mathematical Logic and Logical Positivism in Poland between the Two Wars [London: Oxford University Press, 1945].)

After World War II, with Lesniewski no longer alive, Lukasiewicz and Tarski abroad and Poland’s leading logicians engaged in the pursuit of logic as a purely mathematical discipline, it was left to Ajdukiewicz, Kotarbinski and to their pre-war and post-war disciples (now junior colleagues) to continue the tradition of the logical approach to philosophy, in particular to the philosophy or methodology of science. Among those of Ajdukiewicz’s former students who are well-known outside Poland, one should mention Henryk Mehlberg (“Positivisme et science,” Studia Philosophica; The Reach of Science, 1958 and many articles on the philosophy of mathematics and of science), now in the U.S.; Roman Suszko (apart from articles on mathematical logic, “Formal Logic and the Evolution of Knowledge” in Problems in the Philosophy of Science in A. Musgrave and I. Lakatos (eds.), [Amsterdam: North-Holland, 1968]); Marian Przelecki (The Logic of Empirical Theories, [London: The Humanities Press, 1969], numerous articles on the semantics of empirical theories); Klemens Szaniawski (contributions to the foundations of probability, statistics and decision theory); and Jerzy Pelc (editor of Semiotic Studies and author of many contributions to semiotics), the last three at present professors of Logic in the Faculty of Philosophy of the University of Warsaw. Of two favorite assistants Ajdukiewicz had in Poznan, Zbigniew Czerwinski and Andrzej Malewski, the former (author of many articles on the foundations of probability, statistics and inductive logic published in Studia Logica) now has a Chair of Econometrics in the Poznan School of Economics and the latter, having made very interesting contributions to the philosophy of the social sciences (e.g. “Generality of Levels of Theories Concerning Human Behaviour” in H.L. Zetterberg and G. Lorenz (eds.), A Symposium on Theoretical Sociology, [New York, 1964]) died prematurely in tragic circumstances. Between 1955 and his death in 1963, Ajdukiewicz was responsible for organizing regular seminars in Warsaw and conferences in several other places. The majority of those professionally interested in logical methodology in Polish universities, some mathematical logicians, e.g. Suszko, Grzegorczyk, and invited scientists (physicists, biologists, social scientists, linguists) participated in those gatherings. Ajdukiewicz was an excellent teacher by nature; nevertheless, he used to prepare his weekly lectures for undergraduates as carefully as public lectures or presidential addresses. The problem of how to improve teaching methods, and especially how to make logic as an academic subject attractive to students not majoring in logic, was a great concern to him throughout his life, during which he wrote seven textbooks on logic and methodology of science. He was a man of action as much as a philosopher. Teaching and research were for him important social activities which had social consequences and were, therefore, associated with social responsibility. As a professor he was an academic in the grand manner; during his years as Rector of Poznan University he was usually referred to as Kazimierz the Magnificent. But it was part of his nature to see to it that any job he undertook was done properly. One can conjecture that he would have been successful in any career he might have chosen. Reminiscing on his years as a commanding officer during World War I he would sometimes say to his friends and colleagues that perhaps he should have chosen the career of a general rather than of an academic (K. Szaniawski: “Jezyk i poznanie,” Kultura, November 1973). Though he defended in his writings the ideal of “pure science” against narrow-minded practicality, thinking to solve intellectual and practical problems and teaching were for him an important part of a life worth living. Another feature of his personality, which many of his former students and colleagues emphasize, was his ability, or at least his efforts, to understand other people’s interests and points of view, however difficult this might have been on occasions. Though schooled primarily in mathematics and physics, he had an exceptionally good understanding of the peculiarities of the humanities. And though his foremost interest was in logic, the foundations of mathematics and of science, he was by no means narrow-minded in supporting other people’s research. For instance, back in the 1920s he encouraged one of his assistants to do research on the philosophy of Duns Scotus (“The Concept of Intention in Duns Scotus’ Philosophy”) and of Aristotle (Cf. Stefan Swiezawski: “Wspomnienie o profesorze Ajdukiewiczu,” Tygodnik Powszechny No.1265, 1973). In private life Ajdukiewicz had many interests, ranging from music (Beethoven, Wagner) and literature to game shooting. He was a nature-lover and the Tatra Mountains were particularly close to his heart. He was a great conversationalist. The qualities of Ajdukiewicz which most impressed me personally back in the 1950s when I belonged to the circle of his disciples and subsequently junior colleagues were his dignity, independence of mind, and the rare ability to display apparently worn-out problems in a new light. On re-reading Ajdukiewicz’s works recently, I have been struck by the extent to which his philosophy between 1920 and 1963 revolved around a few main themes seen through and illuminated by changing perspectives.

Reprinted from: Kazimierz Ajdukiewicz, The Scientific World- Perspective and Other Essays 1931-1963 (edited by Jerzy Giedymin, Dordrecht- Boston: Reidel, 1978, pp. xiii-xvi) by permission of Kluwer Academic Publishers.