Pragmatism in Poland Today. A Report
Pragmatism and Poland? I guess it is no news to some of the readers that John Dewey "had an affair" with a Polish woman (there is even a book on this subject) while some others may recall that once he wrote a report on the situation of Polish diaspora in Philadelphia. But what other connection could there be - someone might ask - between pragmatism and the Central European country which is known mostly for Lech Wałęsa and the late pope John Paul II?
The idea of this article came into my mind when I was attending the first Polish Aesthetic Congress back in September 2006 and after having carefully examined the final version of the program I realized that the only session wholly devoted to a particular philosophical current was the one on pragmatism. It significantly included papers mostly by young scholars (also by the one who is writing these very words) and concentrated primarily on the ideas of John Dewey and his contemporary advocates, Richard Rorty and Richard Shusterman. What is worth adding, Professor Shusterman himself was one of the two foreign speakers invited to the congress; he also gave a plenary paper and participated in a special event organized to celebrate the publication of the Polish edition of his Practicing Philosophy. Pragmatism and Philosophical Life.
Now, one may wonder what is the reason for the fact that pragmatism played such an important role at the main event of the Polish Society of Aesthetics, the event which gathered as many as 120 speakers, including the most distinguished art philosophers in the country. An easy answer would be that it is nothing particularly strange given that the President of the above mentioned society which co-organized the congress, Professor Krystyna Wilkoszewska, happens to be a member of the Board of Directors of the Central European Pragmatist Forum, and the author of a book on Dewey's aesthetics which was not so long ago republished with an afterword by Richard Shusterman.
Nevertheless, this answer would be quite unsatisfactory because the main reason here not anyone's personal bias, but the growing popularity of the pragmatist movement in Polish academic community. I will try to outline this noteworthy phenomenon in the remainder of this text, of course without any pretensions for covering all its aspects, something which would be impossible if only because of the constraints of space. But before I start let me clarify my position: the fact that the historical perspective presented in this paper embraces approximately the last 10 years does not in any way mean there was no pragmatism in Poland before that time. There was, indeed, but I am not going to elaborate on it here since (A) the scale of this phenomenon is simply incomparable with the recent flurry of pragmatist activity and (B) the aim of this paper is to present the contemporary situation, not the historical path that might have lead to it.
Let us, then, continue with aesthetics by saying that Krystyna Wilkoszewska is the editor of a series of translations of books concerning this philosophical discipline (published by one of Poland's biggest and most important academic publishers - Universitas, based in Kraków) which starts with a book by Joseph Margolis What, After All, is a Work of Art? (Margolis 2004), but includes also Practicing Philosophy by Richard Shusterman (Shusterman 2005), whose earlier book, Pragmatist Aesthetics, was translated into Polish, by Adam Chmielewski and Leszek Koczanowicz (among others) and published by Wrocław University Press in 1998.
Although the stress put on Dewey's aesthetics should be considered something positive (or so I believe) and in a way consonant with interpretive tendencies present in American scholarship, as exemplified by Shusterman or Alexander, it is worth noting that Dewey's only book translated into Polish after World War II, besides Democracy and Education and a few others concerning pedagogical matters, has been Art as Experience (Dewey 1975) and that the other aspects of Dewey's thought, like methodology e.g., still need to be more widely recognized in Poland. Nevertheless, I am happy to say that the first steps toward achieving this goal have been made (e.g. by Piotr Gutowski whose recent scintillating book provides a thorough and very competent outline of Dewey's metaphysical views; see Gutowski 2002) and given the fact that, thanks to professor Wilkoszewska's efforts, the beginning of 2007 witnessed the opening of the Polish section of the Center for Dewey Studies in Kraków, the future of Dewey scholarship in Poland now looks brighter than ever.
The other two great classical pragmatists, William James and Charles Sanders Peirce, have their own significant position in Polish intellectual life, too. During last 10 years there have been new translations of James's The Will to Believe, Pragmatism, The Meaning of Truth, Psychology, Some Problems of Philosophy: A Beginning of an Introduction to Philosophy (James 1996, 1998, 2000, 2004) and 2002 saw the second edition of a monographic book on James by one of Poland's most respected pragmatist scholars, Hanna Buczyńska-Garewicz (currently Holy Cross College Professor Emeritus) who has also devoted many of her studies to Peirce. And even though only a small part of the latter's ouevre has been translated into Polish so far, there is a group of Polish scholars who study his thought and have published several books and many papers on the subject (see Komendziński 1991, 1996; Kalaga )1997).
From what I have said so far it may seem that if we were to designate the center of pragmatism's reception in contemporary Poland this would have to be the city of Kraków. It is not the case, however, since the role of Toruń is equally crucial in this regard. Toruń UP publishes a series American Philosophy Today, edited by Tomasz Komendziński and Andrzej Szahaj (Poland's most prominent advocate of neopragmatism and renowned political philosopher) which includes two volumes so far: the first (Komendziński, Szahaj 1999) with papers on American philosophy in general and on Davidson, Rorty, Putnam in particular, but also with translations of the essays by the latter two; and the second, dedicated to Charles Hartshorne and Charles S. Peirce, with contributions by both Polish and foreign scholars (e.g. Dan Nesher, John R. Shook). The city also hosted, in 1999 and 1998, two big international conferences devoted to the ideas of the main neopragmatists, Rorty and Putnam, who participated in the events as honorary speakers.
Of course, it has been the neoanalytic (to use Tom Rockmore's term), not the neoclassical strain of pragmatism which has achieved the greatest popularity in Poland in the last years. Rorty's Philosophy and the Mirror of Nature, Contingency, Irony, Solidarity, Consequences of Pragmatism and Objectivity, Relativism and Truth (Rorty 1996,1998,1999) have all been translated into Polish, while his thought has become the topic of many articles and several books (e.g. Marek Kwiek's Rorty's Elective Affinities, 1996, and a great fundamental monograph by Andrzej Szahaj, 1996). There have also been translations of Hilary Putnam's works (Putnam 1998,1999), Nelson Goodman's The Ways of Worldmaking (Goodman 1998), and of the essays by an author sometimes associated with pragmatism, Stanley Fish (although this identification is very often questioned, not to mention the fact that he himself rejects it), whose work naturally attracted literary theorists in the first place.
I would like to conclude this short report with an old agrarian metaphor and say that the seed has been sown and since the climate and the soil seem proper, if we take good care of it, we will probably see pragmatism flourish in Poland real soon. But for this we need a closer interaction (or a transaction, if you will) between the American and Polish pragmatist communities (more intense exchange of ideas, more translations, more conferences), something I personally have a strong will to believe in.
 The session named Pragmatist Aesthetics included the following papers: Janina Makota: "Did John Dewey Introduce a New Notion of Art into Aesthetics?"; Dagmara Jaszewska: "Good Life in the World of Things. On Deweys Aesthetics"; Marcin Krawczyk: "Richard Rorty on the Place and Role of Art in Contemporary World"; Sebastian Stankiewicz: "The Category of Aesthetic Meaning in Pragmatist Aesthetics"; Alina Mitek-Dziemba: "Aestheticness Unchained. On Efforts to Democratize Aesthetics"; Aneta Rostkowska: "Nondiscursive Aspects of Experience and Their Aesthetic Meaning"; Wojciech Małecki: "Practical Aspects of Richard Shusterman's Aesthetics."
 See Ryder and Wilkoszewska 2004, Wilkoszewska 2003; Wilkoszewska's book on Dewey's aesthetics was reviewed by Dorota Frąckiewicz in Transactions of Charles Sanders Peirce Society, Vol. XLI, No. 2 Spring 2005 (455-459).
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