Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Chwistek on contradiction

As you may (or may not) know, there was a fairly lively debate surrounding the validity of the principle of contradiction in Poland in the beginning of the twentieth century.

Main participants:

Łukasiewicz 1910, On the principle of contradiction in Aristotle.

A book. He distinguished a few senses of the principle, and criticized most of them. He also attempted to describe a society in which people wouldn't accept the principle.

Leśniewski 1912, An attempt of a proof of the principle of contradiction

A paper. This is weird stuff. He assumes the principle on the meta-lingustic level (in his words: "no contradictory proposition possesses a symbolic function") and argues for the ontological formulation. Interestingly, Łukasiewicz wrote in his diary that Lesniewski showed up at his place with the manuscript and that Łukasiewicz were convinced by Leśniewski's defence. I'm not. (see here for reasons, especially section 2.4)



Chwistek 1912, On the principle of contradiction in the light of Bertrand Russell's recent research.

A long paper. This stuff is quite rare. I had to take an 800 km long trip and dig in an archive to find a copy (which I did last week). Quite amusingly, everyone cites it, but no one gets the reference quite right (which was another reason why it was difficult to find). I haven't read it yet, but it's ca 65 pages. I'll post some comments as I go.

Anyway, I'll be translating it over the next few months (a student of mine here in Gdansk might do some bits) with the purpose of gathering all three things in one book-like publication. (Bernard Linsky already kindly agreed to write an introductory part discussing Chwistek's relations with Russell, when the translation is done). What's quite surprising is that only Lesniewski's paper has been translated. I mean, there's a sort of an English abstract of Łukasiewicz's book lying around (translated by Vernon Wedin, in Review of Metaphysics, 1971, 24, 485-509), but it's not exactly the actual book.

(There's also a book on Łukasiewicz's stuff by Fred Seddon, which I'll try to get a hold of.)

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