A New Organon. Science Studies in Poland between the Wars

A New Organon. Science Studies in Poland between the Wars

Friedrich Cain / Bernhard Kleeberg, Institute of Advanced Study, University of Konstanz
Vom - Bis
20.02.2015 - 21.02.2015
Christoph Maisch, Deutsch Polnische Literatur und Kulturbeziehungen sowie Gender Studies, Europa Universität Viadrina, Frankfurt an der Oder

The international workshop "A New Organon. Science Studies in Poland between the Wars" took place on 20th and 21st February 2015 and was organized by FRIEDRICH CAIN (Konstanz) and BERNHARD KLEEBERG (Konstanz) at the Institute of Advanced Study at the University of Konstanz. The aim was to discuss the works of the “Koło Naukoznawcze” [i.e. “science of science working group”], which was active between 1928 and 1939 in Warsaw. The group was composed of sociologists, philosophers, literary critics and scientists who published in the journal "Nauka Polska. Jej potrzeby, organizacja i rozwój" (i.e. Polish Science. Its Requirements, Organization and Development). In addition, English and French translations were published in a "forgotten" sister journal called "Organon". The workshop shed light on the proceedings of the circle and several of those “lost” articles. The workshop’s basis consisted of a selection of central texts – partly translated into English for the first time by TUL’SI BHAMBRY – to be published in a reader. These texts included: Maria and Stanisław Ossowski, The Science of Science (1935); Antoni B. Dobrowolski, The Urgent Need for Mental Education in Poland (1918), Researching the Genesis and Development of Scientific Creativity (1928); Czesław Białobrzeski, An Autobiographical Sketch and Remarks on Scientific Creativity (1927); Stefan Błachowski, The Problem of Scientific Creativity (1928); Emile M. Borel, Documentes sur la Psychologie de-L’Invention Dans Le Domaine de la Science (1936); August Krogh, Visual Thinking. An Autobiographical Note (1938); Tadeusz Kotarbiński, On the Skills of a Researcher (1929); Florian Znaniecki, The Subject Matter and Tasks of the Science of Knowledge (1925); Paweł Rybicki, Science and the Forms of Social Life: Issues at the Intersection of Sociology and Theory of Science (1929).

The first paper by JAN PISKUREWICZ (Warsaw) and LESZEK ZASZTOWT (Warsaw) gave an overview of Polish institutional frames of research on Science and the Humanities from the last decades of the 19th century. While the “Koło naukoznawstwo” presented a center of epistemological reflection, there were as well groups in Warsaw, Lwów and Krakow, especially the Lwów-Warsaw-School. Thus “Nauka Polska” and “Organon” were not the only journals on scientific criticism, other examples were "Przegląd Współczesny" and "Przegląd Filozoficzny". However, the Varsovian circle added the psychological and social processes of research, learning and teaching and establishing Polish academia on national and international level to an international epistemological discourse of the time.

ŁUKASZ DOMINAK (Toruń) analyzed influences of the theoretical background of “Koło Naukoznawstwo”, which he found in the Vienna Circle and in the person of Clemens Brentano. His genealogy of thought led from the Ossowskis as pupils of Tadeusz Kotarbiński and back to their “Master” Brentano. Dominiak followed a center/periphery approach and declared the “Koło Naukoznastwo” as a much stricter and more radical version of the Vienna Circle. This led to a lively discussion about the origins and influence of the members of the “Koło Naukoznastwo” and their integration into the central European academic community and post colonial discourses.

PAWEŁ KAWALEC (Lublin) focused on the Znaniecki and Ossowski papers from the workshop reader and developed a programmatic perspective on the current situation of the “science of science”. He described the field as broadly differentiated. Focusing on innovation studies, evidence-based science policy and mixed-methods approaches for research design, Kawalec criticized Znaniecki and the Ossowskis for their research on inventions and not on innovation, which offers a broader view on societal added value of science. Both articles underestimated the economic aspect of inventions and thus would need a multi-perspective analysis, including more than just economical or political approaches. Nevertheless neither the Ossowskis nor Znaniecki could have foreseen the differentiation of science.

Next KATRIN STEFFEN (Lüneburg) researched the reestablishment of the Polish state after 1918 as a fundamental reorganization of politics. The contemporary idea was to recreate a state, based on a progressive science agenda, focusing on elites. One third of these elites were recruited from Polish exile communities, who implemented ideas from different national agendas, e.g. from France, Great Britain or Germany. Social engineering became an important task in academics and wrapped up in the slogan "No nation without science". State, industry and science cooperated closely and lead to the foundation of the Ministry of Public Health in 1918 and the National Institute for Hygiene in 1923 as one of the first countries in Europe. Major figures in these processes were Ludwik Hirszfeld, Kazimierz Funk, Ludwik Rajchman and Tomasz Janiszewski.

ANDREAS LANGENOHL (Gießen) commented the section and discussed how science encountered for the methods used in a science of science. On the one hand this was a topic of Znaniecki and the Ossowskis but on the other their blind spot. This became clear during the Ludwik Fleck / Izydora Dąbska controversy, where the very basis of perception and with it the perception of science as subjective is discussed. Although these were known to Znaniecki and the Ossowskis, they never focused on it closely.

JAN SURMAN (Marburg) described the specific role of language for polish interwar academia. Examples were translations of work-papers in journals around “Koło Naukoznawcze”. Surman’s thesis in this context was that scholars in the 19th century focused on the idea of a singular concept of science through meta-language, which was supposed to play an important role for the “Koło Naukoznawcze”. Surprisingly it did not. The two columns of interwar academia were multilingualism and translation, straight in accordance with the thesis that big countries are autarkic and small countries multi-linguistic. Due to the dominance of German as academic language in Central Europe, translation became mayor theme. In 1920 this dominance went so far that it was nearly impossible to give a lecture on math in Polish, since there was no terminology yet.

FRIEDRICH CAIN (Konstanz) investigated the epistemological ideas and practices of the geophysicist Antoni B. Dobrowolski who worked on a method to study creativity in research and artistic production. This interest was closely linked to his pedagogical work. Based on his observations and readings of a large variety of materials Dobrowolski aimed at the formation of “archives of creative thought”. Consisting of “original accounts” of practitioners – i.e. researchers – these archives were to make possible detailed research on mental and social processes of inventions. Based on two fragments called the “Code of the Intellectual Morality” and the “Catalogue of the Mental Action”, Cain followed Dobrowolski’s attempt to formulate a “grammar of thought” based on observation and not on “philosophical speculation” that he opposed in his writings and proceedings of the “Koło Naukoznawcze”.

CORNELIUS BORCK (Lübeck) closed the section with six remarks. First, the science of science aimed at consolidating science rather than establishing a radical agenda. Second, what made Warsaw’s “science of science” special was the perspective of inter-nationalism that developed from a colonial into a postcolonial context. Third, the Polish context bypassed the "German" crisis of science that emerged with the fragmentation in all scientific fields. This might have been one reason why Ludwik Fleck was not canonized in Poland, since he proposed a creolization of methods, while the “Koło Naukoznawcze” tried to bring creativity back into science. Fourth, the problem of a language for science was not of major importance since the members of Koło Naukoznawcze were multilingual. Fifth, the center/periphery discourse influenced theory and method. Surprisingly the periphery was often much stricter in their interpretation than the center. Finally, the interdisciplinarity of science and the “Koło Naukoznawcze” was of such an importance that the belief in universalism was supposed to create an overall ideology for science.

In the next panel, OLGA LINKIEWICZ (Warsaw) analyzed the role of Florian Znaniecki, Antoni B. Dobrowolski and the Ossowskis as main figures of “Nauka Polska”. The combination of state and science was supposed to be the solution for the inefficiency and corruption of the interwar period, and were until 1926 closely connected with the Sanacja regime of Józef Piłsudski. In this context the people around the “Koło Naukoznawcze” were utopian vision builders. State and science were so closely linked that several scientist considered their mutual development as patriotic duty. From 1929 on members of “Nauka Polska” developed different divisions for research, a theoretical one and a practical one for applied social science, including the state as active and creator of society and social engineer.

MARTA BUCHOLC (Warsaw) worked with the sociogenesis of the texts for the reader. In these texts the authors tried to reflect about themselves during scientific processes, which is considered an act of sociogenesis. She took a closer look at scientific biographies as methods, research processes and concepts of science. Even though the articles focus on creativity and modernization, they implicitly tell about the social role of science, conceptualized as a form of creativity, and accessible only for the “right kind of mind” (e.g. a genius). Bucholc pointed out the focus on individual elements in contrast to the collective research process. These articles were not written for critical reading; they considered the authors as masters of their word and did not anticipate a meta-critical reading of their writing.

MATTHEW KONIECZNY (Minneapolis) focused on the role of Warsaw's Jewish Elite in the establishment of a modern “Polish science”. With a memorial speech analysis of the physicist Władysław Natanson (Jagiellonian University Kraków) for Marian Smoluchowski, Konieczny worked out the idea of a “Polish commonwealth of science”. This Commonwealth focused on cultural integration and intellectual cosmopolitanism instead of biological determination. It was an ideal pursued through an analysis of the Jóżef Mianowski fund-the contemporary main funder of research and publication in Poland and the Jewish and gentile academic elites in Warsaw. The presentation focused on the concept of "Jewishness" as a socioeconomic character and not as an ethnicity.

MONIKA WULZ (Zürich) commented the omnipresent tensions in all papers. The strong opposition of past and future were represented in the conception of creativity in science and science as an orientation model for a good citizen. In this sense a cosmopolitan scientist was not a bourgeois but at best one that was included in the social processes of engineering state and people. This concept was not only reflected in “Nauka Polska” and “Organon” but in all of Poland at that time.

During the final discussion Bernhard Kleeberg took up general threads and commented on the complexity of the topic of interwar science in Poland. With a special thanks to the translator Tul`si Bhambray and all participants, the workshop ended.

The workshop brought together various perspectives on interwar science studies in Poland aside from the well known concepts of the Lwów-Warsaw school and Ludwik Fleck. The focus lay on creativity, postcolonial perspectives, multilingualism and integrative forms of research for social engineering. Unfortunately perspectives on the aesthetics of science came a little short. Nevertheless the format proved highly productive, since the new translations in combination with many excellent papers covered several blind spots in research. The atmosphere encouraged critical exchange and open debate.

Conference Overview:

Friedrich Cain, Bernhard Kleeberg (Konstanz)

Editorial Remarks
Tul'si Bhambry (Berlin)

Jan Piskurewicz, Leszek Zasztowt (Warsaw)
Science of Science in Poland before World War Two – Institutional Frames

1. Studying and Applying Science and Knowledge
Chair: Bernhard Kleeberg (Konstanz)

Łukasz Dominiak (Toruń) International Philosophical Background of Koło Nukoznawcze’
Paweł Kawalec (Lublin) The Science of Science: From Inception to Maturity
Katrin Steffen (Lüneburg) Science in Context. Scientific Progress, Mental Health, and the Polish Nation
Andreas Langenohl (Gießen) Commentary, followed by discussion

2. Genealogies, Transfers, and Ruptures
Chair: Hannes Brandt (Konstanz)

Jan Surman (Marburg) Language in the Deliberations of Koło Naukoznawcze
Friedrich Cain (Konstanz)‘On a proper method for studying creativity’. Antoni B. Dobrowolski’s Archive(s) of Creative Thought
Cornelius Borck (Lübeck) Commentary, followed by discussion

3. Scientific Communities Revisited
Chair: Friedrich Cain (Konstanz)

Olga Linkiewicz (Warsaw)Toward Expertocracy: The Scientific Debates on Applied knowledge in Interwar Poland
Marta Bucholc (Warsaw) Sociogenesis of Science. On the Margins of the Proceedings of Koło Naukoznawcze
Matthew Konieczny (Minneapolis) Visions of a ‘Commonwealth of Science’: The Role of Warsaw's Jewish Elite in the Formation of a Modern Polish Science
Monika Wulz (Zurich) Commentary, followed by discussion

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