Attachment to Roman Ingarden’s letter written in 21.12.1954

Prof. Roman Ingarden Sr., PhD


On the “introduction” to Leibniz’s “Nouveaux Essais” by L. Kołakowski

   n        As I am unable to discuss all the details of L. Kołakowski’s dissertation entitled “The rational and the irrational in Leibniz’s rationalism”, intended to serve as “Introduction” to the translation of Leibniz’s Nouveaux Essais, since to do so would require an extensive paper, I shall limit myself to listing the principles according to which the dissertation should be rewritten if it were to indeed serve as “Introduction” to the translation of the aforementioned work by Leibniz. In its present form, it cannot be published in this capacity, even though it does accurately reflect Leibniz’s views in a number of points. +
   n        + I am only considering this dissertation here from this point of view. If its Author just wished to publish it as an independent dissertation in one of the philosophical journals, I would have no remarks.
   n        1. The title of the dissertation should be changed, as it is inconsistent with the spirit of the Polish language.
   n        2. This title, which refers to a very interesting topic, which should be separately elaborated on in the future, does not correspond to the actual content of the dissertation in question, because a/ it was not sufficiently developed in the dissertation, and to develop it would require explaining a number of concepts of rationalism and distinguishing its various types, and likewise with those of its its opposite: irrationalism; b/ in the discussed dissertation, the overwhelming majority of considerations goes beyond the subject indicated in the title, at the very least these considerations are not conducted in a way that serves this topic.
   n        3. The dissertation is definitely too long for an “Introduction” to the said translation. The “introduction” should only familiarize the reader with the subject matter of a given work and should not in any way try to go beyond it or constitute an independent second whole in relation to the main work. An appropriate introduction should be short, in principle it should not exceed a dozen or so pages of print.
   n        Shortening of L. K.’s dissertation could be achieved by omitting all topics that go beyond the subject matter of Leibniz’s Nouveaux Essais. It would be even more desirable in this case, since the LCP Editorial Committee also intends to publish translations of Leibniz’s other works, so appropriate information or considerations from this text could be included in the introductions to these other translations. This applies, for example, to almost all of Leibniz’s metaphysics. Similarly, biographical information seems unnecessary to me, especially since the reader can find it in any history of philosophy textbook.
   n        4. L.K.’s dissertation deals too little with the work itself, which is supposed to be the main goal of the introduction. It would be advisable for this kind of “introduction” to, for example, shed light on the core of the Leibniz-Lock dispute, in particular which issues are the most important in it and what the differences in the treatment of the issues themselves are, as well as in their solutions by both Leibniz and Locke. It would also be important to consider the question of whether and in what direction Leibniz’s position, especially in terms of his epistemological views, was pulled thanks to Locke’s work and the polemic they entered into and what modifications were introduced into Leibniz’s thought as a result of it in comparison with earlier works. For example, to examine whether Leibniz’s rationalism had not changed, whether it had not been somewhat relaxed e.g. in the specific attitude he took towards experiential cognition, etc.
   n        5. Leibniz’s philosophical views were built in the 1950s and – as we know – he has changed his position on a number of fundamental matters, in part as a result of his study of the research of others. Any mention of this evolving character of Leibniz’s work is completely missing from L.K.’s dissertation and Leibniz’s philosophy is treated as a single compact block-system, which in fact would only constitute a certain phase of his research, and not even the one formulated in Leibniz’s Nouveaux Essais. Moreover, Leibniz is almost constantly criticized and berated, not for what he claimed in this work, but for what he claimed in his other works, and sometimes even for what others claimed about Leibniz’s views.
   n        6. A polemic against Leibniz’s views, as long as it concerns the work the dissertation is to be an introduction to, is obviously not only possible, but even valuable, however provided that it is carried out based on purely factual arguments. In Leibniz’s philosophy – like anyone’s philosophy – one can certainly find a footing for it. Scientific criticism, however, is not and cannot be a series of dogmatic decrees condemning or stigmatizing certain views. Likewise, showering an author with praises for managing to present statements that the critic likes does not belong in a scientific discussion.
   n        7. Any epithets addressed at the criticized author or implying he might have had non-scientific motivations that could be construed as rudeness towards the criticized author or his work should be removed. They constitute no added value, instead they diminish the weight of the critical remarks. They are especially out of place when directed at a researcher as outstanding as Leibniz undoubtedly was. The mere fact that the LCP Committee publishes translations of his work shows that its members consider him outstanding, regardless of the validity of his claims.
   n        8. Leibniz’s role in the history of European thought and science – if it is to be the subject of an introduction to one of his works at all and if it can be formulated briefly – should be reconsidered, and the views expressed on that subject in the aforementioned dissertation should be revised. A reader who knows neither Leibniz nor the history of modern philosophy will probably not be able to infer from the paper that many of Leibniz’s views as they appeared in the history of German culture marked a sort of a beginning of the “age of enlightenment”.
   n        9. Also the role of Leibniz’s investigations in the history of modern logic – negatively assessed in L.K.’s dissertation – should be re-examined more thoroughly. This is a vast topic in itself, which of course cannot be exhaustively discussed in the introduction to Nouvaux Essais, therefore it can be left out altogether. Various views of neopositivists on Leibniz’s output in this regard are not important for the role of Leibniz’s research itself. A negative assessment expressed by L.K. – borrowed, as it seems, from others – does not seem relevant, or at least its presence is unwarranted in the discussed dissertation. Also, the context where Leibniz’s logical investigations are discussed (between theodicy and politics) is not appropriate.
   n        10. I have a number of reservations about the presentation of modern philosophy by L.K. as well as about many details of Leibniz’s views. However, it would not be possible to discuss it here. I must point out, however, that it would be advisable for the Author of the dissertation to review some of his statements based on an analysis of Leibniz’s texts, at least when it comes to the matters discussed by Leibniz in Nouvaux Essais.

In Krakow, 7/21/1954      n           n           n        /Prof. Roman Ingarden Sr./