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VERSUS IDEALISMO OBJETIVO:
KASIMIERZ AJDUKIEWICZ (1937-1949)
trozo que aquí se transcribe parcialmente –parágrafos de 3 al 5, y 9-
apareció, bajo el título de “My philosophical ideas”, en The heritage
of Kasimierz Ajdukiewicz, editado por Vito Sinisi y Jan Wolenski, Rodopi,
Amsterdam, 1995. En la primer página (p. 13) del texto aparece una nota en que
se lo nombra así: “W sprawie
artyculu prof. A. Schaffa o moich pogladach filozofiznych” /Prof. A. Schaff
‘s paper on my philosophical views”/, Mysl Filozoficzna, v. 8 (n. 2),
1953, p. 292-334… (nota de HIG).
Frente a tantos filósofos de la ciencia de moda que se expresan sobre
este tema y son masivamente difundidos, creemos necesario reivindicar a
Ajdukiewicz, filósofo profundo, claro y serio si los hay.
MY PHILOSOPHICAL IDEAS
Sinisi & J.Wolenski (eds.), The
heritage of Kasimierz Ajdukiewicz.
Amsterdam, 1995, parágrafos 3 al 5, y 9.
3. Critique of idealism
Every idealist tries to undermine the view that the world exists independently of any spirit with the help of the following argument. Practice and experience do not allow us to decide whether the world exist independently of any spirit or whether it is only some correlate of a spirit or spirits, since all assertions based upon practice and experience remain true if they are interpreted as being of a non-independently existing world rather than of an independently existing one. In other words practice and experience, so goes the idealist’s argument, do not allow us to decide whether the world exists independently of spirit or only has a conditioned existence. Berkeley used this rejoinder with particular lucidity. He repeated indefatigably that accepting his idealistic thesis, people will not have to change anything in those views which are based on practice and experience. How can we reply then to this idealist argument? We may reply like this. We must show that there is some assertion which is compatible with practice and experience and which can be interpreted materialistically (or rather realistically), but never idealistically. Only when I find an acceptable assertion which turns out true when we understand existence as unconditioned and false when we understand it as conditioned will the dispute between the idealist and his opponent be solved on the basis of practice and experience to the advantage of the latter. The dispute will be settled between the idealist and materialist (realist)by looking for an instantia crucis.
In the light of these comments let us examine [my
attempt] to settle matters with the defendant of certain kind of idealism. I
have in mind the transcendental idealism of Rickert. Like every form of idealism
it denies that states of affairs which make up the world exist independently. It
asserts on the other hand that that, which we accept as existing independently,
has a conditioned existence, i.e. that states of affairs which we accept as
existing independently are only correlates of a transcendental norm and that
their existence depends on their being asserted by propositions or sentences
having application to this transcendental norm. We shall call such sentences
“theses of the system” for short. Now let us bring this doctrine […]
before the testimony of experience and practice. The idealist will not
acknowledge that he is beaten, since he asserts that everything based upon
experience and practice can equally will be interpreted in an idealistic way.
There is no sentence, according to the idealist, which is confirmed by
experience, which would be true if we understand existence as as unconditioned
and false when we understand the expression “exists” as “is asserted by
thesis of the system”. In order that testimony of experience decides the case,
we have to show, in the face of the idealist’s assertion, that there exist
assertions confirmed by practice and experience and true under a materialist
interpretation but not true under an idealist one. Now my essay [“A Semantic
Formulation of the Problem of Transcendental Idealism] is devoted to exactly
this task. It shows that there is an assertion confirmed by experience and
practice and true under the materialistic interpretation but not under Rickert’s
idealist one. This assertion takes the shape of the ontological principle of
excluded middle which states that of two contradictory states of affairs one
always exists. This principle, true under the materialist interpretation of
existence, changes into the sentence “Of two contradictory states of affairs
one is always confirmed by some thesis of the system”. This sentence is false
(though I shall not give details in this short appraisal of how we can show this).
[In order to avoid possible misunderstanding I
should make clear that in the essay] I am speaking not of the ontological but of
the metalogical principle of excluded middle. […] Neither am I speaking of
contradictory states of affairs but contradictory sentences etc. […] Moreover
in the essay I give a travesty of the thesis of transcendental idealism putting
it in a semantic formulation. Instead of expressing this thesis in an
ontological way: “States of affairs which constitute the world do not exist
independently of the subject but are only correlates of a transcendental norm”,
I state it in a semantic version: “Sentences are not true in the sense that
the states of affairs asserted in them exist independently of the subject but
are only sentences having application to a transcendental norm, in short, only
theses”. These formulations are equivalent; if one is true so is the other, if
one is false so is the other. For if some states of affairs exist, the sentences
asserting them are true and if some states of affairs do not exist, the
sentences asserting them are not true. Equally, if some state of affairs is a
correlate of a norm, the sentence in which this state of affairs is asserted is
a thesis, but if this state of affairs is not a correlate of a norm, the
sentence which assert it is not a thesis. From this equivalence it follows that
proving the falsity of idealism in the semantic formulation is tantamount to
proving it in the ontological formulation. […] When, in order to settle the
dispute I said that I was invoking the methodological principle of excluded
middle and stated that of two contradictory sentences always one is true I
invoked a principle which is not only equivalent to the ontological principle,
which actually states that of two contradictory states of affairs one always
exists, but is also a derived form it. So the ultimate premise in my proof is
the ontological principle and thus an assertion not about language but about
Apart from that what can one say about my way of
proceeding in this essay? I settle the ontological problem on the basis of
ontological premises with the help of their semantic travesties giving an
4. The so-called pure theory of knowledge
Philosophers […] whom I shall call the
representatives of the so-called pure theory of knowledge […[accuse defenders
of the view that the problem of idealism is soluble on the level of
straightforward reality by means of results of practice and experience, of
philosophical naiveté and lack of understanding of the problem. According to
these philosophers, at the same time as questioning the independent existence of
things we questions the value of knowledge which led us to the view that the
world exists independently. If one wants to solve the problem of the existence
of the world with the help of a method based on practice and experience then one
commits the fault of petitio principii, implicitly assuming exactly that which
is questioned. One should, according to these philosophers, proceed differently.
One should take on a attitude which suspends both the content of our knowledge
about the world and the method by means of which we came to this knowledge, i.e.
one should neither assume this knowledge nor apply the method. One ought to set
out from an analysis of the process of epistemological knowledge in general and
analysis of the concept of existence independent of consciousness and then
decide on the basis of these analyses whether it is really compatible with the
nature of epistemological knowledge that it has as its object something which
exists independently of consciousness. This is the way philosophers argue who
think that a solution to the problem of existence on the basis of experience is
symptomatic of philosophical naiveté. I take matters up with such philosophers
in my essay “Epistemologia i semiotyka” (Epistemology and Semiotics)5
The main trend of thought in that essay is this.
If someone confines himself to the syntax of language, eliminating descriptive
terms (e.g. “thing”, “house”, “tree”) he will not find any road
which leads to the world of real things, i.e. he will not be able to define
descriptive terms. Now using this as an analogy I suspect that also if someone
limits himself to the pure theory of knowledge eliminating concepts of things (e.g.
the concept of house, tree etc.), he will not find a way leading to these
concepts, i.e. he will not be able to define them on the basis of the pure
theory of knowledge. Philosophers who want to solve the problem of idealism from
the point of view of the pure theory of knowledge (which I call “enlarged
syntax”) will not be able to do this since, standing on the basis of the pure
theory of knowledge they will not be able to arrive at objects or states of
affairs of our world, which is exactly what the problem of idealism is all about.
So from the point of view of the pure theory of knowledge, not only can one not
solve the problem of idealism concerning the way in which our world exists, but
one cannot even pose the problem. One can only pose the problem and solve it on
the level which does not eliminate our world from the sphere of analyses carried
out on that level. So the level must be that of objects, things, neither may one
suspend the methods by which we have epistemological knowledge of that world,
i.e. the methods of practice and experience. […]
In the above-named essay, apart from what I have
stated above, there are my views on the genesis of idealist doctrines to which I
ascribe exactly the idea that the starting-point of an examination of the
problems of the world’s having an independent existence should be that of the
pure theory of knowledge. […]
In the essay I said that it is impossible to
reduce sentences about non-linguistic reality to sentences about language, since
such a reduction presupposes semantic concepts, i.e. such concepts as the
concept of the relation of denotation which holds between a name and the objects
named by it, such as the concept of truth or the agreement between a sentence
and the corresponding reality. In short, it presupposes concepts which refer to
relation holding between the expressions of a language and their objective
correlates. One cannot build these semantic concepts exclusively with the help
of expressions concerning language but one needs, in order to construct them, to
presuppose at the start the existence of expressions concerning reality. The
reduction of statements about non-linguistic reality to sentences about language
is therefore impossible, for in order to effect such a reduction one has to use
semantic concepts and these already presuppose that there is a finished language
which treats of reality. So such a reduction falls into a vicious circle. I made
these points in “Epistemology and Semiotics”, where I also tried to show
that in such attempt to build reality on the basis of language or on the basis
of epistemological processes.
5. Later modifications.
Now [i.e. in 1953] I do not maintain all of my
old statements concerning the theory of language. I have rejected many of them.
For instance, I have rejected the conceptions of closed, connected languages and
also untranslatable languages as fictitious and superficial. But these
conceptions played a large part as elements of so called radical conventionalism,
which I intend to discuss in a moment, giving this doctrine particular acuity.
Rejecting these conceptions I also reject the conceptions to which they lead me.
Having rejected the conception of a closed language I also rejected the
definition of meaning associated with it, which I considered one of the main
part of my work in the theory of language. It was not, however, only the
rejection of the conception of a closed language which inclined me to disagree
with the definition, though this was indispensable for the definition’s
construction. The fact that the definition allowed two expressions to have the
same meaning but different extensions also necessitated its rejection. It seems
to me that synonymy must be so defined that sameness of meaning entails sameness
of extension (though not the other way round) if the relevant definition of
meaning is to be adequate. I also changed my views as to empirical directives.
9. Conventionalism and idealism
Radical conventionalism has not idealist theses
nor does it lead to such consequences. […] It suffices however to effect a [certain]
change in order to arrive at an outrageously extreme variant of idealism. All we
have to do is identify the concept of truth with the concept of a thesis, that
is, suppose that a true sentence is nothing more than a thesis, or in terms
concerning epistemological processes and their constituents only (e.g. Berkeley
defines an object of perception as a sequence of sense-qualities which are the
constituents of the epistemological process of perception). This procedure is
analogous to that of attempting to define “referent of name” without having
recourse to the term of the object language, but only on the basis of the terms
of syntax of language. It is generally know that such attempts will never lead
to a definition of “referent of a name” according to which one will be able
to predicate the term truly of those objects which are spoken of in the object
language. On the basis of this analogy one can expect that attempts to construct
a definition of the term “object of perception” without taking into account
the terms of the object language will not bestow the term with such a meaning
that one could truly predicate it of objects which are spoken of in the object
language, i.e. of trees, houses and other bodies. […]
“In my article “On the notion of existence”7
I analyze the meaning of the phrases “really exists” and “intentionally
exists” as used by idealists and I consider the following formulation of
idealism: “Bodies do not exist really but intentionally”. I say that I
cannot say whether this thesis is true because I do not posses in my language
expressions which would constitute a translation of “exists intentionally”.
What I can say about this thesis is that the idealist either states it without
good reason, or violates the rules of the language in which he states it.
The untranslatability which concerns us here is
quite different from that which was touched upon in connection with radical
conventionalism. In the latter case certain expressions were untranslatable into
a given language not only because the corresponding words did not occur in the
language but also because it was impossible to enrich the language through
addition of these words without depriving it of its connexity. Here, on the
other hand, when I say that I cannot translate the term “exists intentionally”
into my language, I have in mind the fact that I do not actually use term in my
language which is synonymous with “exists intentionally” and have no desire
to add such a term to my language. I could do this however without depriving my
language of its connexity. If I made such an addition I could say whether the
idealist thesis is true or false and I would in fact assert that it is false,
though my reason would be that the first conjunct of the conjunction by means of
which the thesis is expressed is false. I preferred, however, not to do this, so
that I might not contaminate my language with a term of such ill repute as
“exists intentionally”. […] It seems to me […] that what I said about
the possibility of securing the idealist thesis (i.e. that if one can state it
without destroying its sense, one can state it only without real justification)
disqualifies this thesis completely and is as worthy of note as actually
asserting its falsity.
First published in Przeglqd Filozoficzny XLIV, 1948, pp. 136-47; Eng.
Tr. by J. Giedymin in K. Ajdukiewicz,
The Scientific World-Perspective, op. cit., pp. 182-91.
First published in Studia Philosoohica IV, 1951, pp. 7-22; a new English
translation by J. Giedymin in K. Ajdukiewicz, The Scientific World-Perspective,
op. cit., pp.209-21.
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