Philosophy and Ideology. Z. A. Jordan 1963


The purpose of this study is to describe the development of philosophy in Poland since the end of the Second World War and the development of Marxist-Leninist philosophy which, owing to international political events, has assumed an important role in the intellectual life of contemporary Poland. This task could not have been accomplished without relating post-war developments to those of the interwar period. Consequently, the period studied covers the years 1918-1958.

Yet another extension was necessary. Marxism-Leninism regards sociology as a part of philosophy. Moreover, Marxism-Leninism often resorts to sociology to support or justify some of its philosophical views. Finally, its criticism of ‘bourgeois philosophy’ is often concerned with social philosophy and sociological theories which supposedly are implicit or explicit in ‘bourgeois philosophy’. For this reason it was desirable to consider in this study some theoretical and methodological problems of the social sciences. They are taken into account when they illuminate philosophical controversies or the evolution of Marxist-Leninist philosophy.

Marxism-Leninism is not only a new line of development but also a new point of departure in Polish philosophy. It provides a striking contrast with the established philosophical tradition which originated roughly at the time when G. E. Moore and Bertrand Russell initiated the analytical trend in English philosophy. The contrast can be epitomised by the contradistinction of philosophy and ideology, chosen as the title of this study.

To make this point clear, it was necessary to inquire more closely into some of the philosophical theories of Marxism-Leninism. In view of the fact that the more specifically philosophical parts of Marxism-Leninism are little known. this detailed inquiry might hold some intrinsic interest. It considerably enlarged the scope and length of this study, but also revealed some new facts which shed light on the changes wrought in Marxism-Leninism under the impact of its encounter with academic philosophy.

Considering the ideological nature of Marxism-Leninism, its rise in Poland was bound to lead to sharp clashes of philosophical attitudes and opinions. Owing to political circumstances, these clashes turned into an internecine war, which Marxism-Leninism declared upon the existing philosophical tradition, its methods and techniques, its general programme and particular views. The war was not waged solely by intellectual means and did not respect the procedures necessary in the search for truth. Yet the outcome of this conflict was not the destruction of philosophy by ideology. On the contrary, it was ideology which slowly changed its initial position, reducing its claims, revising its points of view, modernising its outlook, and discovering the value of objectivity, logical consistency and free inquiry.

This dÉnouement might have been of more general significance were it not for certain restrictive circumstances peculiar to Poland which are to be found in the vigour of the native philosophical tradition. It is no exaggeration to say that the outcome might have been different, if Polish philosophy had not been steeled for generations against any form of irrationalism by a systematic cultivation of logical and other scientific procedures and if it could not draw upon these resources to maintain its steadfastness of purpose and its power of attraction.

Although the Polish case may not admit of any easy generalisation, it seems to prompt some general reflections on the importance of philosophical thinking, its relevance to man’s life, and its social function. The controversies and arguments to be recounted and analysed in the following pages transcend a purely theoretical approach to problems of philosophy. If Polish philosophers had failed to bring to bear the whole force of their knowledge upon the problems at issue or to take the utmost advantage of the persuasive power of logical procedures, if they had yielded to the extra-logical pressure or ceased to oppose confused thinking and fallacious reasoning, something more than an abstract argument would have been lost. Conversely, the sustained and successful effort to maintain a certain kind of philosophical inquiry or a certain way of exercising intelligence had repercussions outside the restricted field of philosophy. It undermined and helped to dispel irrational beliefs in the wider area of social life. Although philosophical controversies in Poland were in some respects a contest of specialised skills and knowledge, they were not exclusively such, for they carried risks and implications from which a debate pursued in academic seclusion is usually free. For this reason the developments in Poland seem to have a universal significance.

It is sometimes said that the philosophy of to-day, having become specialised and technically refined, has lost relevance to that with which the common man is concerned. The development of events in Poland does not confirm this opinion. The prevailing philosophical tradition was professional as well as being technically advanced. Its vision, which, to quote Friedrich Waismann, inspires any philosophy worth the name, was derived from science and logic. Yet it has shown itself to have implications for the perplexities and conflicts of the times. The vision not only secured the survival of philosophical thinking, but also helped the general public by providing it with standards of rationality and objectivity as well as by inspiring confidence in the fruitfulness of critical discussion as a means of liberating the mind from errors and prejudices. The philosopher’s consistency, persistence and reasonableness were clearly relevant to ordinary opinions and left their imprint on the course of social and political events.