Letter from Stanisław Ignacy Witkiewicz written 16.04.1937

16.IV 1937 Zakopane
Honoured and Dear Professor =
In response to your letter of 25/XII, I report the following:

  1. In my work hyletic data are derived from consciousness (or it is derived from them) because the unity of personality (consciousness – I avoid this term) and hyl[etic] data (= qualities) I consider to be non-self-dependent moments of what I refer to as IE [Individual Existence] considered from within, so Being in Itself and for Itself (=BFI). What makes the discussion difficult is that I know all your works, whereas you neither know the Hauptwerk, nor the popular monadology, nor the booklet on causation, all of which are in your hands. I do not reproach you, I’m just st[ating] the fact.
  2.  I am actually trying to create metaphysics with absolute exclusion of God. God = Absolute Nothingness for me; it is unacceptable as a contradiction (IE) [Individual Existence] infinitely great in (T) [Time] and (S) [Space]. I have the impression that I have freed metaphysics from God through my biological monadism. This is the only possible way for me to reconcile a living creature in one piece, as in the (W) [World] view. Within this view, I reject its naive realism (things beyond perc[eption] as well as in perceiving) and the confusion of the (Psych.) and (Phys.) views (psychological = Cornelius and physical).
  3. I reject epistemology because I do not believe in it as a separate pure discipline with which the germans [sic], who do not want to be stupid materialists and who are afraid of metaphysics, have made an in-between opening for themselves. But it is a delusion, because a given epistemology is always based on some more or less conscious ontology. Therefore, all energy must be turned towards working out together some realistic ontology, remaining in agreement with the (W) [World] view in this respect, and it is your holy duty [to do so], if you have begun it once. You mustn’t get distracted by some side– work, according to the Law of Sturm de Sztrem, by which the irrelevant work always wins over the serious stuff.
  4. If you do not understand (in my work) that (and how) from bodily monads I can create the world of statistically any physics, it means that you do not know my main invention, which allows me, not rejecting any physics as such, while not kneeling in front of it (like the vitalists – which compels them to accept entelechy, or “life forces” as an antidote), to resolve the issue of physical materialism. The embodied monad is something primary: I accept this element as primitive (because some I must) with which I can describe others and to which I can reduce them to. I will not make an organism from electrons, but I can make any (DM) [Dead Matter] from a heap of small organisms (in my mind – as in a given case, for example). Here I have to refer the reader to the Hauptwerk and monadology, because this is my “Lebenswerk” and I cannot summarise it again in a letter – it’s difficult. The actual infinity cannot be overcome not only by ontology, but even mathematics; they “kneel” in front of it – that’s all. But that’s what the world is like, because (S.) [Space] and (T) [Time] and in them existence in [its] greatness and smallness we have to [accept] (denknotwendig) as in its border infinite, and this can’t be helped. God will not help me, it’s unnecessary luxury – instead of a necessary mystery, luxurious nonsense. I prefer not [to partake]. Leibniz could not decide between realism and idealism, materialism and spiritualism [substantial – not psychological or Husserlian (I write as if L[eibniz] knew H[usserl])], between finitism and infinitism and he danced on two stools – ingeniously – but on two. This is precisely my “correction” to Leibniz: the corporality of monads, their action and hence (DM) for them; real finitism – border infinitism and Mystery here as a strict and necessary concept. To the material thing, I add the epithet “for us”, because I assume (IE) [to be] a “first thing” and the world around its body [to be] for it, as realistically phenomenal. (I developed this in a paper for War[saw] Phil.[osophical] Soc[iety] on December 7, 1936. If you allow, I will send it to you later; so many things from your letter are already (for me) disposed of in good “abhandlungs”. The body possesses myness (“Meinig-keit” – my own term), which other objects do not have, and specific qualities. “Cornelius cannot see the difference between the body and the table, and this drives me to despair. The body is mine, I am the body plus memory, etc., and the table is for me. (Kotarbiński does not like “for” as a reist).
  5.  The whole (IE) is self-reliant from the inside (to some extent depending on the laws of the body and (DM), but the non-self-reliant moments of this independence are: the unity of personality and quality (“experience”).
    I am just defending myself against Aristotle and Driesch = I do not conceive of a separate spiritual substance and I first I look at (IE) as experiences in the unity of personality (from the inside), and secondly as at an organism among similar organisms within the (DM) constituted also with organisms. I would not like to mix these views: i.e. (P) and the view (W) [Whole] of the whole of existence which falls into the physical (P) view, wanting in vein to swallow everything, and the (B) (= biological) view, which does not allow itself to be swallowed (and will not be). There are no two “substances” (the abomination which, apart from the general object, relation and “whole and part” has tainted the entire philosophy with sheinproblem, and everything has derived from the matter, on which the soul was shaped as a substance); there are only (IEs) from two perspectives observed – it cannot be otherwise.
  6. Things are phenomenally-real, because they are as such, in their qualities, for us, and besides they can only be piles of monads, because the existence of things, that is, something dead by definition, as beings for themselves (which is only an attribute of living beings) is something contradictory. Being in itself dead, without personality and quality in it, is something unthinkable; it is a nonsensical heritage of materialism derivative from the (W) [World] view: naïve physicalised realism. Rather, the latter has meaning rather than a dead being in itself (as much as a living being for someone, for a dead thing – I am a phenomenon for a table, for example). These are deep-rooted nonsensicalities, whose nonsense against the background of habits and practical melange of views in the (W) [World] view we do not sufficiently realize: here, formal ontology cannot cope, it can confuse us – one must examine the current being, that is without bending it to the theory. Each body is of course also a thing (but why do you tend towards reism?), but the first thing is for itself (and not for the pure consciousness; here is the third error of the (W) [World] view, spirit independent from the body), given in other qualities, it is my thing – this my–ness exists in specific qualities. Whoever does not see the chasm between the touch on the surface of the skin and the touch of the table – these two components of the whole act of touching the object falsifies reality thoroughly. [If something is] material = it is given in touch – but there are two kinds of touch: the outer (thing) and the body = the surface under which sit the internal sensations. Within the body, I cannot distinguish anything phenomenal anymore – it is one with consciousness. [Here’s when Husserl and idealism come out in your work – I apologize for the absolute tone]. There is no consciousness that observes the body, only a conscious body that has memories, imaginations and thoughts (in a nominalistic sense), and the rest of the quality outside the body is the world. If you knew my work, such misunderstandings would be impossible. The duality of my monad is not body-soulish (I eliminate the soul precisely as a substance), but it has different contents, of necessity in this and not any other way (into the body, the world, etc. constituted, and in addition) in another view, as seen by other monads, is an objective organism. For you, biology (the only discipline besides psychology describing the world adequately) does not exist. This dose of idealism in relation to things must be accepted, even if only against the background of the “causal theory of perception”, necessary to accept, and confirmed by science.
  7. I completely cannot imagine a monad without quality, and this accusation is incomprehensible. As for dreams, loss of consciousness and similar states of the monad, I presented to you my theory of a different limited scales of feeling intensity experienced by different monads, and for the time being I am satisfied. And you’ll find the details in the yet unfinished (42pp) essay “for being in and for itself” which I dedicate to you – I will not repeat it here. The apparatus can be assumed in a different view, not the psychologistic one, where everything is expressed in terms of quality, but for the price of not talking about objective entities. Petitio principi in terms of quality (and in the “theory of cognition” according to you) is necessary, because we can never go beyond the circle of our experiences – hermetic closure of durables (BFIAS) [Beings for Themselves as Such] which Leibniz identified with phenomenal closure in space and ruled out action as pushing two surfaces of monad bodies one against another. Here is the source of action – in this sense things are acting on themselves as pile of monads. The intersubjective world creates the corporality of monads and their resemblance to each other. Qualitative qualification will come down to qualifying monad bodies. Qualitative things as such, apart from my (or your) perception do not exist: for the physicist there are clouds of finalities, just as these things [are] unacceptable in their objective being, and even doubly so, because not fully explicable: in physics to explain – [is to] unfold and [to] give the law of configuration variability. Red is real as such, but the red apple is phenomenal as such, as a thing in these qualities given, and the clouds of photons are phenomenal virtually, if they exist – atoms are real and just as real-phenomenal as things. But how one turns into the other, it will remain unknowable in any system. The point is that the ontological necessity of such a state of affairs should be demonstrated. How does a multiplicity of monads create quality is similarly (maybe a little less) inconceivable as the fact that the multiplicity of some physical vibrations creates it through the apparatus made in the first tranche of monads, and in the second (according to the (P) [physical] view – if we are at it) of the same elements as the cause (electrons or fields or something else), it remains a mystery in any system (and it cannot be otherwise). However, in monadism I deal with a homogeneous material – monads and quality in their persistence – there is nothing more. And in the (Ph) [physical] view I have completely different, irreducible elements, which in similar parts of my body (I do not know how they are created) create ganz was anderes [something totally different]: qualities but belonging to this and not any other personality. This is the superiority of carnal monadism over systems that fear (apart from psychologism) bringing physics to something else. In the (Ph) [physical] view the qualities are real, they are the last elements – only things are phenomenal as such [and not the “bodies of monads” (actually corporal monads)] in these qualities given. I have never said that: the first reality consists of non-self-dependent moments: the unity of personality and quality. Atomic clouds, if atoms are real, are virtually qualitative. As far as they are as real as our things. Only comfortable (or uncomfortable) fictions are without qualities, but they are still assigned to something real (monad clouds or monads).
  8. The body must be more than a cloud of atoms. After all, in monadology of the body, not everything comes down to the clouds of physical objects (electrons), but they are decomposed into monads. You do not know my basic theory, on the basis of which I reduce the clouds of atoms – and the atoms themselves – to piles of monads; my body not only consists of such piles but above all of the monads themselves. This theory is to be found in the “popular monadology” – I will not repeat it. The thesis of atomic cloudiness of the body can be used unconditionally, if one is a physical materialist/physicalist or a vitalist – for a monadist it is unacceptable for the body to consist only of clouds of atoms, even reducible to clouds of monads. The body is something final, the organization (IE) of the partial (PIE) = Partial Individual Existence] above all, and it can contain atoms, entangled in this organization (See: “Populäre Monadenlehre” Oeuvres posthumes, 1989 edition). Physical finalities cannot possess properties by assumption, but the fact that they are extensible, heavy and impenetrable, I do not classify as features, only “conditions of existence”, non-self-dependent moments of the whole real-phenom[enal] existence, or hypot[hetical] finalities.
  9. Such is the structure of existence. We find it such and not different (there is such a general-ontological substrate so undeniable that everyone must accept it – I am working on it right now, and contemplating it thoroughly one can see it cannot be different – only one of your 16 possibilities must be possible in reality – that is, what existence is currently. They can be interpreted according to essential possibilities (inherent in this substrate), or quite fantastically, with some additions. And among the first there is still a choice between artificial monisms and dualism (me carnal and the world composed of (IEs [Individual Existences]) and (DM [Dead Matter]) [in terms of these (IEs [Individual Existences) expressible] inevitable – and this is just the existing structure of existence on which we must report, not bend it to convenient possibilities that suit us. Quality is the ultimate truth and biology, not physics, describing inadequately the necessary fiction (DM). How can I (apart from conceptualisation also reducible to qualities) get out of the circle of qualities, I do not know. I can only assign them to the qualities of another individual and create a real-phenomenal world. Apart from qualities (as you know, I reduce acts to groups of them) I do not see anything in us – of course, the second non-self-reliant moment is the unity of personality. It is possible that there is something of Schopenhaurianism in me, because in the 17th year of my life after Kant, I absorbed the whole “Schoppie” [Schopenhauer] with g[reat] zeal. Convictions, presumptions, etc. are abbreviations of descriptive psychology for some complex groups and series of qualitative complexes. “Transcendence of bearable quality” is for me a very strange sentence, because bearability is also a quality term. We raise certain groups to rank as more than qualitative beings that are not there (unless probably as abbreviations roughly, in [destructive] psychology). – Not only in relation to the pure self, which, as a non-self-reliant moment, also cannot be separated from the general state of things, the “being for oneself” (IE) [Individual Existence], but already in relation to another group, quality seems for you so transcendent, as an “electromagnetic field” – we are a close shave from the fusion of quality with physical objects, which this demon count Russel executes, in his infernal “crucible of contradictions”, avec son “insolence aristocratique” habituelle [with habitual aristocratic insolence] (I hate this aristocrat, almost as much as Bergson and “Vienna” [the Vienna circle]). There is no redness in experience – this is a concept, unless I speak about apple redness (here it is in a group) – but it is red, as real as can be, as such, but not as an “object”, only as a quality, the last element of all experience.
  10. There is no other? standing at the basis of the theory of cognition, as psychophysiological, as long as we adopt a causal theory of perception and do not reduce the body to some idealistic ”correlation” of pure experiences. Petitio principii is inevitable, even with an understanding of conceptuality as a way out of a magical circle of experiences. Signs – that’s all of it, but having common meaning for the many (IEs). This alternative starting point in the theory of cognition (the pure self) is for me v[ery] dangerous: from the start, the state of things is distorted. (I recall my critique of intentionalism and Husserl in conversations with you before and after beer).
  11. The auditory hyletic data have a certain broad extension – otherwise it could neither be associated with spatiality nor be more precisely localized. It is a terrible mistake and the absence of introspective obviousness to deny extension to certain data – this is a pathway to idealism. I forgive these demons Russell and Bergson a lot, that they accept this spatiality of all qualities. Now, not mixing the extension as experienced with the objective one is my enduring aspiration. Space does not constitute itself, it just exists, together with everything. What you write about the fact that Husserl does not accept non-extending monads is a revelation to me, but I do not find that in him. I had thought the exact opposite, but I believe you. Where is it explicitly said in
    H[usserl] and not in Becker The existence of non-spatial qualities and the “constituting” of Space is here for me v[ery] suspicious: space is real as opposed to Abs[tract] Time. H[usserl] in spite of everything will remain in his position, because his pure ”self” is not extended. For me, the pure self is an extended moment, because it encompasses (like a sauce in which all content is imbued) everything, and all of it is extended – it is not transcendent to content, only immanent to it. This is what I express as the “non-independent moment”. I am still in a “mundane” state, because I am myself immersed in this “mundus [small world]” and I will not resort to the absolute transcendental spill, and I accept the petitio principii consciously, programmatically, where I must. With the help of the transcendental self in relation to everything, this is seemingly avoided, believing in the spontaneous beginning of pure thought, pure acts, etc., not muddled with hyletics. And here everything was created from this cattle manure. Considering corporeality alone is not yet a complete overcoming of idealism, but [recognizing] corporeality and the extension of the self is. A certain dose of idealism will always remain and it is true that objects are not what they seem to us – you are for me a group of qualities, and for yourself you are you (BFI), for the physicist a table is a pile of electrons, for me a pile of monads – in any case it is not a table, if I am not writing on it, it is not hard, yellow and smelly – it is a mistake of naive realism (and a wor[ld] v[iew]), that they accept it.) Objective extensions are different than those given to me in qualities. I will not wait for the right to constitute the world – the world exists, I experience it, but I do not constitute it.
  12. This has to be done by an idealist from his experiences and seek an intersubjective putty for his experiences and this conglomerate then he calls the world. But why you need it is a mystery. If you stick with Husserl’s certain theses and terminology, then you will never become an authentic realist (with the necessary addition of idealism, as it befits any non- fanatical realist, who is not naive). Logically idealism is irrefutable. But you are right that the ontological proof is difficult. I have the impression that I accomplished this in the “huge” addendum to the polemics with Metallmann about Whitehead. But this proof is already a luxury – the realist is by definition in the real world, from the assumption, from the (W) [World] view, from physics, from the causal theory of perception, from biology, from everything – idealism is a spittle into delusion from the fear of the problematics of real existence. Problems disappear there.
  13. The fact that I perceive “redness that no one sees” as a horror is no remnant of Berkeley, only my deepest faith. I see in naive realism a contradiction = direct nonsense. I will return to the polemic with you about Berkeley explicitly. These things then lead to such a horrific black book, as Russell’s “Analysis of matter”, and to such convictions as those held by the Warsaw operationalists: Wunheiler and Poznański.
  14. The irreducible duality of quality (body and world above all) is within one personality – it must be so, because the monad is not a point without windows, but has a body and lives in a real world from which it must differentiate itself. Nevertheless, I think that Berkeley’s great merit is that he brought attention to it in such an illuminated way for the first time. I cannot comprehend at all your self with acts with the addition of something like naive realism, which borders on Kotarbeusz’s reism. I am right now overcoming the Cartesian duality. (In general, you mixed me up me with the “mud” of everything that I try to overcome in all systems – this is an interesting story!), because I do not recognize two substances, spiritual – cognitive and physical, extended. Too bad – you do not know my works, and I do not want to force you to read them. The two types of quality imply the difference not between the materiality and spirituality, but between the body and the world. The memories are becoming spiritual and from them the entire gallery of imaginations and “thoughts” is initially “made” (thought – ha!!), which we later call the spirit (yes – only we call it spirit, but the complex of bodily qualities we do not call body, only he is the body: in addition to being an experience, it is an organism. The original consciousness is the body’s consciousness, but if you already call the memory a ”spirit” (Bergson), I cannot help it. This turns into an idealistic hypostasis that I fight.
  15. Immanent analysis is carried out with the assumption that acts are something irreducible. Whoever does not see this is blind – in Antalowka in August 1934, I brought up acts in the presence of Mrs Ingardenowa, and she replied to this: and yet the acts exist and come out of pure consciousness. This is the answer given by a person who believes in the proofs of the non-existence (present infinity) of God. I do not support pure psychologism (even in the Cornelius form with the concept of unity of personality), I only fight it as an incomplete description of the world, leading to idealism as it becomes unravelled. There are no acts that Cornelius would have to accept (then he would turn into Husserl), only the body – that’s all. I have never encountered Husserl’s body in his writings – only eyes, glasses and the beard, fluttering in an intentional gale, all heading towards the pale and negligible correlates. I dream about some kind of reading together with you, but will it ever happen?
    There is no “plurality of reality” of Chwistek, because (DM) [Dead Matter] is reduced to the multitude of monads in reality, not only conceptually. This accusation can be made of Wildon Carr, whose origins: atomic and monadic are floating alongside each other side. It is actually not what you have said, in my opinion: my monadology breaks up real relativism. “There’s only the monad and Witkacy is her prophet,” as a poet would say. No – the body as such is not assumed – there is no principled petition here, because if we look at the monad from the inside, it is a separate and relatively stable complex of experiences, but it possesses a “Meinigkeit”, which – to this degree – even the memories and imaginations do not have. Currently, I am a body plus memories of this body and its “mine-ness.”
    Only for that reason I do not want to “constitute” anything again, so as from this it does not appear that the pure self existed first and made everything from elements. (Something from Kant gets mixed up here.) Epistemological Standspunktlosigkeit ist eine pure Täuschung [Lack of point of view is pure illusion]. The worst Viennese (oh how much I hate this gang!) have their hidden offbeat ontologies, so to speak. Apparently in the writings I know, the thesis of Husserl’s body is not clearly stated. In the already constituted world, I translate this into my language as “on the side, as an organism” (the objective world). – Epoché is completely unnecessary, as long as one is a realist and accepts a certain necessary contribution of idealism in the previous sense. Why settle on something superficially only to then (but actually in advance) assume that it’s just as it should be. It is a cliché that you can describe everything not only in an idealistic but also in a solipsist way, and even live a life. Mehlberg irritated me with these clichés at the congress. And what comes out of this? This is practically a pure world view of the monad from the inside. You can say it but it does not contribute to anything. I will never understand the meaning of epoché – it is simply an eidetic psychology ontologised in the absence of the need for the world. Why did he accept other selves? He could have remained a solipsist. Idealism does not flow from Epoché, but following it, becomes possible. Why accept the luxury of the real world when you can do without it. To add to solipsism spiritualist monads, this does not cost anything – they “do not weigh” anything in the idealistic world – they are as cheap as borscht. Husserl’s body problem really got in my head. Do you know that for the first time reading Ideas, I read epoché as something important. For me, this is completely worthless. For what? What you write about value I do not understand.
    I enclose words of deep respect and affection
    Here’s a little letter – brand new
        n      I am waiting for you to confirm the reception of this, as well as the one on Wittgenstein
           n                          Witkacy
         n                                                  16.IV 1937