Letter from Władysław Tatarkiewicz written 19.03.1959

Cracow Lenartowicza 18
19 March 1959


Dear Roman,

               My first impulse after receiving your letter was to come to you immediately and personally explain the misunderstanding. But I thought that since it pains you to speak about these things, then I would adapt to that and write. Anyway, an explanation in black and white is often better than an oral one.

                First of all, I want to tell you this: that I am extremely sorry that I affected you in this way. But this was neither my intention nor my fault. The matter is simple”  the current edition is anastatic, unchanged. My history ends in 1945. For some time I hesitated as to whether or not to add information about what had happened in philosophy in the years 1945‒57, but decided not to do it. There hasn’t been the slightest addition concerning what you or what anyone did after 1945. Once a rule has been adopted, it has to be adhered to, just the same for friends. I supplemented the bibliography only: but not with a list of papers published by philosophers after 1945, but only with historical studies. In this respect, your son’s paper about Copernicus is listed, but not ‘attributed to you’, because it is clearly given as R. S. Ingarden. The mistake is only in the index, but not only did I not do the index, but ‒ due to the publisher’s hurry ‒ I never received the proofs. Proof of how little I wanted to keep silent about your article on Aristotle’s aesthetics, which I esteem highly, is that I open my paper ‘The Greeks on the imitative arts’, which recently appeared in Art and Criticism, with a reference to it.

                It never occurred to me to count how many pages or lines particular chapters of my book contain; I didn’t know until now that the summary of Ajdukiewicz’s views contains more lines than the presentation of yours. And by no means do I measure my appreciation for a philosopher by the number of lines devoted to him. Rather the opposite: if his position is fundamental and monumental, it can be presented in fewer lines, as was true in the case you cite.

                You reproach me for mentioning only two of your works (really: three) in the text. In a book like mine, it is impossible to think in terms of a full list of a given philosopher’s works. Returning to the comparison you made: I didn’t mention even one of Ajdukiewicz’s works. You reproach me for not mentioning you when writing about Polish aesthetics. But earlier, in the general discussion of your philosophical achievements, I wrote that aesthetics occupies a significant place therein. So was it necessary to mention you again along with Sobeski, Wallis, and Blaustein?

                Here we have, I believe, all the accusations you levelled at me. I think I’ve answered all of them and explained that I was unable to proceed otherwise, that I did what was required for my book. These are all matters of easily explained facts. But there is also another sentence in your letter that wounded me twice over: not only had I involuntarily hurt you, but you also voiced a suspicion about me that I didn’t deserve. Because if you conclude a letter in these words: ‘for many years there has been an agreement in Poland to maintain a consistent silence regarding my achievements and my position in the world’, I have no choice but to understand this as a suspicion of my participation in this agreement. I don’t believe that such an agreement exists. However, there certainly are, among Polish philosophers, those who are friendly and those who are unfriendly to you; there are as well those who are unfriendly to me. If there are indeed two groups in Polish philosophy, it is probable that, after a moment of reflection, you’ll have no doubts that I belong to the same group as you do.

                Returning again to History of Philosophy: in writing it, I tried to eliminate personal sympathies and to inform rather than to evaluate. But the esteem I have for your work and the friendly feelings that I have for you led me, in the fragment about you, to deviate from this principle, which I formulated exceptionally so as to contain not only information but also appreciation.

                I hope that everything has now been clarified. Accordingly, I shake your hand