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Twardowski, Kazimierz (1866–1938)


Kazimierz Twardowski had a twofold role in the recent history of philosophy. He had a decisive influence on Polish philosophy in the twentieth century; and at the turn of the twentieth century he contributed to the transformation of European philosophy in its search for new, intellectually responsible methods of philosophical inquiry. His conception of philosophy and his specific contributions to epistemology, philosophical psychology, and theory of science helped to pave the way for the emergence of phenomenology and of some forms of analytic philosophy.

Twardowski was born in Vienna. He studied philosophy at the University of Vienna, where he came under the influence of Franz Brentano. In 1892 he received a PhD degree from the university, and he became a lecturer there in 1894. In 1895 he was appointed to a chair of philosophy at the University of Lwów, where he taught until 1930.

Like Brentano, he wanted philosophy to be scientific, which to him meant a rejection of grandiose but nebulous speculation, an unrelenting war on conceptual confusion and linguistic obscurity, and a painstaking analysis of clearly defined problems, which through elimination of conceptual sloppiness, leads to empirically verifiable conclusions. No wholesale condemnation of metaphysics was intended by these methodological injunctions. Nevertheless, Twardowski was increasingly aware of the boundary beyond which the method of philosophy, as conceived by him, could not reach and beyond which a philosopher qua philosopher should remain silent.

More specifically, the basic philosophical science, avoiding both irresponsible speculation and skepticism, was to be the Brentanist "descriptive psychology," understood as a sort of empirical inquiry, but distinct from experimental psychology. Twardowski, however, went well beyond Brentano and contributed to the demise of psychologistic accounts of meaning and of psychologism in general. In an early and influential book, Zur Lehre vom Inhalt und Gegenstand der Vorstellungen, Twardowski introduced a sharp distinction between the mental act, its content, and its object. The distinction between content, which is mental and a part of a person's biography, and object, which is not, was overlooked by Brentano and the early Alexius Meinong but became crucial for Twardowski and led him to a general theory of objects of thought. These ideas influenced Meinong, Edmund Husserl, and to some extent Moritz Schlick, and through them much of early-twentieth-century philosophy. The difficulties of Twardowski's theory of objects, with its attending danger of overpopulating the Platonic heaven, led later to Stanisław Leśniewski's "ontology" and Tadeusz Kotarbiński's "reism." Twardowski's conclusions, far from supporting psychologism, implied a sharp separation of logic and philosophy from psychology. Moreover, the actual procedure of this "psychological investigation" did not look much like psychology either. Phenomenologists have seen in it the germ of the ideas that reappeared both in the later Husserl and in the realist branch of phenomenology. Up to a certain point, it is equally plausible to construe Twardowski's contributions as an early attempt to develop a philosophical psychology, in the sense of an examination of the logical geography of mental concepts.

Twardowski's later work included a further analysis of mental concepts; the formulation of a nonpsychologistic and non-Platonizing account of logic, based on the distinction between acts and their products; the extension of a similar line of reasoning to a general theory and classification of the sciences; and an examination, on several occasions, of various methodological issues of psychology. This included a critique of reductive materialism and a defense of introspection as a source of knowledge. One of his most influential works, "O tak zwanych prawdach względnych," was a lucid critique of relativism.

A strong sense of the scholar's social responsibilities, heightened by the special circumstances of Polish history, led Twardowski to devote more and more time to educational activities, to the detriment of his own work, but to the lasting benefit of Polish philosophy.

As a teacher, Twardowski transformed Polish philosophy and endowed it with a distinct style. He did not preach any particular weltanschauung, and his influencenot unlike that of G. E. Moorewas due less to his specific doctrines than to his way of doing philosophy, his qualities of character, his intellectual integrity, and the impact of his personal example. The school that he created was not linked by a common allegiance to any philosophical creed, but rather by a common acceptance of rigorous standards of professional excellence. Most of his pupils went their own independent ways, representing a wide spectrum of philosophical opinion, but they never ceased to express their gratitude to him. The best-known among them, Jan Łukasiewicz, Leśniewski, Kazimierz Ajdukiewicz, and Kotarbiński, differed from Twardowski methodologically in their emphasis on the philosophical relevance of symbolic logic. Twardowski's influence, transmitted by his numerous studentsphilosophers and nonphilosopherswent far beyond academic circles and, fostering the ethos of free and responsible inquiry in all areas of intellectual life, became a significant factor in the history of Polish culture.

Twardowski organized the teaching of philosophy in Poland, initiated regular meetings of philosophers, founded the first Polish psychological laboratory (1901), the Polish Philosophical Society (1904), and in 1911 the quarterly journal Ruch Filozoficzny, which he edited until his death. In 1935 he became the chief editor of Studia Philosophica, a periodical publishing works of Polish philosophers in foreign languages. He was also active as the editor of several different series of original works and translations, many of them inspired by him, such as Władysław Witwicki's masterful translations of Plato.

See also Brentano, Franz; History and Historiography of Philosophy; Husserl, Edmund; Kotarbiński, Tadeusz; Leśniewski, Stanisław; Łukasiewicz, Jan; Meinong, Alexius; Moore, George Edward; Phenomenology; Plato; Schlick, Moritz.


works by twardowski

Idee und Perzeption. Vienna, 1892.

Zur Lehre vom Inhalt und Gegenstand der Vorstellungen. Vienna, 1894.

Wyobrażenia i pojęcia. Lwów, 1898.

"O tak zwanych prawdach względnych," Księga Pamiqtkowa Uniwersytetu Lwowskiego. Lwów, 1900. Translated into German by M. Wartenberg as "Über sogenannte relative Wahrheiten." Archiv für systematische Philosophie 8 (4) (1902): 415447.

Zasadnicze pojęcia dydaktyki i logiki. Lwów, 1901.

"Über begriffliche Vorstellungen." In Beilage zum XVI Jahresbericht der Philosophischen Gesellschaft a. d. Universität zu Wien. Leipzig, 1903.

O filzofji średniowiecznej. Lwów, 1910.

O metodzie psychologji. Warsaw, 1910.

O czynnościach i wytworach. Kraków, 1911.

O psychologji, jej przedmiocie, zadaniach i metodzie. Lwów, 1913.

Rozprawy i artykuły filozoficzne. Lwów, 1927.

Wybrane pisma filozoficzne. Edited by T. Czeżowski. Warsaw: Panstwowe Wydawn, Naukowe, 1965.

works on twardowski

Discussions of Twardowski in English include T. Czeżowski, "Tribute to Kazimierz Twardowski on the 10th Anniversary of His Death," in Journal of Philosophy 57 (1960): 209215; T. Czeżowski, "Kazimierz Twardowski as Teacher," in Studia Philosophica 3 (1948): 1317; J. N. Findlay, Meinong's Theory of Objects (London: Oxford University Press, H. Milford, 1933); Roman Ingarden, "The Scientific Activity of Kazimierz Twardowski," in Studia Philosophica 3 (1948): 1730; and Z. A. Jordan, Philosophy and Ideology (Dordrecht, Netherlands: Reidel, 1963).

A bibliography of writings by and on Twardowski until 1938, compiled by D. Gromska, can be found in Ruch Filozoficzny 14 (1938): 1439. Additional bibliography can be found in Z. A. Jordan's book.

George Krzywicki-Herburt (1967)

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