|Documentation on Chwistek|
Logician and philosopher with an eccentric and antiacademic personality, Leon Chwistek played a relevant role in the scientific culture of the first half of the century. Although he did not belong to the school founded by Kazimierz Twardowski , nevertheless he shared many aspects of its philosophical program and its style of thought, in the meantime showing a peculiar broad-mindedness toward the arts (he himself was a painter and a friend of Stanislaw Witkiewicz ), and decidedly assuming a sympathetic attitude toward Marxism-Leninism. In philosophy he was a defender of "sound reason", against metaphysics and the irrationalistic feelings widespread in the culture of his time. In logics, his achievements were twofold: in the first place, he was the first logician to advocate anew the simple theory of types to eliminate the paradoxes of the theory of classes; secondly, he seriously criticized the use of existence axioms in logics and mathematics. Moreover, taking the views of Bertrand Russell , Henri Poincaré and David Hilbert as his point of departure, he went on to develop rational semantics, which he contended could be successfully applied to solving problems connected with philosophy, science, social theory, and art.
Born on June 13th 1884 at Zakopane, his father was a doctor and his mother a pianist. He spent his youth in the pleasant town of the Tatras (where he formed a close friendship with Witkiewicz, with whom he conducted throughout his life a lively debate on philosophical and artistic matters). He attended school and university in Cracow , where he studied mathematics and philosophy at the Jagellonian University and at the same time attended the Academy of Fine Arts. When he was awarded his doctorate in 1906, he took up teaching at the Sobieski Gymnasium where he himself had been a pupil, and at the same time conducted research under the guidance of W. Heinrich. Having been granted a scholarship, he went abroad to study logic and mathematics, and attended the lectures of Hilbert and Poincaré. The result of this period of study was his first work, dedicated to the principle of non-contradiction and inspired by the works of Russell. After the First World War, he began lecturing in Mathematics at the University of Cracow, and became a qualified lecturer in 1928. He was given a chair at Lvov University in 1930, where he taught until the outbreak of the Second World War, when he emigrated to the Soviet Union (where his political sympathies lay). Here he devoted himself to scientific research and political activity in the Union of Polish Patriots which had its headquarters in Moscow. He died in Moscow on August 20th, 1944.
A list of Chwistek work's published in Western languages
is in J.J. Jadacki, "Leon Chwistek-Bertrand Russell's Scientific Correspondence",
Dialectics and Humanism, XIII, 1, 1986, pp. 260-1.
- Wielosc rzeczywistosci (The Plurality of Realities), Kraków 1921.
- La méthode générale des sciences positives. L'esprit de la semantique, Hermann, Paris 1946.
- The Limits of Science.Outline of Logic and of the Methodology of the Exact Sciences (translated by H.C. Brodie and A.P. Coleman) , Routledge and Kegan Paul, London 1948.
- Pisma filozoficzne i logiczne (Logical and Philosophical Works), PWN, Warszawa 1961-63.
- Brodie, H.C., "Introduction" to L. Chwistek,
The Limits of Science, cit., pp. XXI-LVII.
- H. Skolimowski, "Colourful philosopher", Polish Perspectives, vol. V, n. 8-9, 1962, pp. 122-6.
- Jadacki, J. J., "On Leon Chwistek's semiotic views", in J. Pelc et al. (eds.), Sign, system, function, Mouton Publishers, Berlin-New York-Amsterdam 1984, pp.77-87.
- Jadacki, J. J., "Leon Chwistek-Bertrand Russell's Scientific Correspondence", cit., pp.239-63.
The most important philosophical ideas of Chwistek's thought, explained by quotations taken from his works. Follow the links!
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