Letter from Anna Teresa Tymieniecka written 13.09.1948

Freiburg, 11/13 – 11/18
v           1948

Dear Professor,

thank you very much for the letter that Father Bocheński passed to me and I am sorry to be writing back so late. But it is because I have already written a few letters and each one seemed inappropriate. I just cannot write letters, because I write about myself either too honestly – and I do not know if it is really that important, or too superficially – and then it seems to me that there is no point in writing at all; and as for the report from the congress I am terribly sorry that I cannot do it at the level of a fifth-year philosophy student. (As to why I will explain that later) Nor at any level at all. Basically, I have not attended many conferences, I was more interested in entertainment and sightseeing in the Netherlands, and I probably lacked understanding (in the philosophical sense), because they seemed uninteresting to me, and weak overall.
   v       I was particularly interested in metaphysics and general ontology sections. Nothing interesting took place there. Several Thomistic, existential, 1 phenomenological reading; dull discussions – generally poor. (I have to stipulate, however, that maybe this judgment is a result of the level being too high and my lack of understanding for what it was about, and hence I might be entirely unable to assess it properly.)
   v       Mr. Franck’s address seemed really serious and valuable to me – but it was so difficult that I only partly understood it – it was one presentation rooted in “real” experience.
   v       The value theory section was more interesting. There were very lively discussions and a large turnout.
   v       In the section on logic Mrs. Destanches’s paper was highly interesting – about examining the validity of systems.
   v       There were lovely trips, a well organized party, and other recreational activities – the congress participants seemed to be more interested in this side of the event, rather than the strictly scientific one.
   v       At the opening of the congress prof. Pos expressed deep regret about the lack of participants from Poland – “des XXX profonds” in general.
   v       Professor D. Santos (from Portugal) asked to convey his profound disappointment that he had not heard you speak and could not talk to you. When going to the congress that was what he was mainly looking forward to. He is keenly interested in what Professor has published since the war and in what languages. He has all of Professor’s pre-war publications he could access and would like to get acquainted with post-war ones.
   v       This is probably all (in summary) I can say about the congress.
   v       In general, I was delighted, but also decently tired, especially since I went from Amsterdam to Brussels, to my family, where it was too nice to relax.
   v       And now I should get to studying. That is not doing very well in my case. For over a year I have been thoroughly healed and I could work properly, especially since my living conditions have been perfectly arranged. It would be hard to wish for any better in post-war Europe. But there have been some changes that I cannot deal with completely. Instead of striking a balance, I am becoming more and more unhinged in the worst way. Namely, I have lost interest, not only philosophical and intellectual, but any. As a result, I don’t study or do anything, I don’t play, I don’t flirt, I don’t do anything at all. I alternate between sleeping and crying with despair over what has happened to me. I stopped thinking. When I do, it is only to contemplate the tragedy of life and the hopelessness of the future. And I have entirely forgotten all about feeling sick or having a migraine which always accompanied me in Krakow, and yet I was passing all of the required exams. Now my seminar work is a superhuman effort – and it is hard to imagine how I will write my doctoral dissertation. I really have no desire to find out anything new apart from what to live for, and if I live necessarily have to live what to do in this life and why. And how to awaken some drive for something and some aspiration.
   v       I have nothing to do with myself, because I need to know what I want, unfortunately the time I have supposedly studied in is and will be completely wasted.
   v       I can’t do anything anymore and I completely stopped developing intellectually, and yet only intellectual work, and actually only philosophy can even occupy me. But it has ceased to interest me, it ceased to be what I live, something organic that it used to be for me, and for this I don’t know why I should be occupied by it.
   v       You probably cannot understand me, Professor, because if something is not interesting then why think about it, but for me it used to be the sense and essence of my life, which has become senseless and empty.
   v       And then there are duties and the matter of profession, meaning that I have to not only “graduate” my studies but also work in it, but how can I manage it when I do not care. Many times, in despair, I thought that if I wrote to you, Professor, the very experience of the contact could revive what is now completely dead in me, because maybe I cannot think for myself without being able to ask someone who has some authority with me, without being aware that if I learn something interesting, some day, even if that is in 50 years, I will tell them. And Professor is still the only philosopher I know that I would like to talk to. If I were to exclude Professor’s “existence”, the world becomes completely empty, there is neither philosophy nor philosophers, I feel completely alone (not as a philosopher because I am just an idiot but as a future philosopher), I have nothing to ask about and no one to ask and nobody to share whatever achievements with – and then philosophizing loses sense, vitality and everything. (Do not be angry with me, Professor, that I write all this and please do not take offense at me thinking like that.) Maybe it is a result of Freiburg’s intellectual atmosphere, which does not seem very good to me. Apart from Father Bocheński I hate all the professors and do not attend their lectures or seminars. They hate me anyway and accuse me of having a “differently built head”.
   v       The situation is almost exactly the same with my classmates, so I have not talked to anyone about philosophy for a year now. Sometimes I talk with Father Bocheński, but every discussion ends up with me being reprimanded for being unrealistic, hearing that the professors complain about me, and they will fail me in the exams as a result. (Fr. Boch. is the personification of kindness; if it wasn’t for him, I would probably have been “advised” to change the university, which would be unpleasant due to the climate and conditions) he tolerates me and I am writing my doctoral dissertation under his supervision. “I am writing” = I will start writing one day.
   v       I cannot write to you, Professor – and it seems like it could be my only salvation; but since I am not thinking anything I have nothing to write about.
   v       I had intended to ask you for advice on bibliography for my work about the essence of existence in contemporary philosophy (I have prepared: Thomists: Mauser, Gilson, Del Prado; XXX: XXX; Existentialists: L. Larelle; Kantists: N. Hartmann) (Naturally, only one work from each author). I wanted to know what phenomenologists wrote something about this, or if they could have written anything about the relation of essence to existence at all. And from non-phenomenologists, who else wrote something interesting about it.
|       Have you written about it, Professor?
   v       I did not do that because I was ashamed to admit that I was not working properly, that I knew nothing.
   v       If I could hope for going back to Krakow one day, for being able to listen to lectures and discussions there again, maybe I would be able to get excited somehow, but according to my and my family’s plans I will not be returning to the country, maybe only for a few weeks.
   v       That is how I am doing.
I would love to know what Professor is doing, what are you working on – but being so stupid I do not have the courage to ask, for am I worth talking to at all?
I apologize for the terrible form and contents of this letter – my excuse is that I am in the process of moving, so “my head is lost”.
  v       I sent my highest respect and best regards

   v       Teresa Tymieniecka
“Thérésianum”, Route de Jura
   v       Fribourg

PS. Could you not drop by Switzerland on your way back, Professor?!
Fr. Boch. would sort out everything regarding your stay – you would just have to ask him