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Władysław Tatarkiewicz

Władysław Tatarkiewicz

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Władysław Tatarkiewicz
Władysław Tatarkiewicz

Władysław Tatarkiewicz [[[Template:IPA]]]; April 3, 1886, WarsawApril 4, 1980, Warsaw) was a Polish philosopher, historian of philosophy, historian of art, esthetician, and author of works in ethics.



As he describes in his 1979 Memoirs, it was an encounter with a relative at a Kraków railroad station upon the outbreak of World War I that led Tatarkieiwicz to spend the war years in Warsaw. There he began his career as a lecturer in philosophy, teaching at a girls' school on ulica Mokotowska (Mokotowska Street, across the street from where Józef Piłsudski was to reside during his first days after World War I).

When a Polish Warsaw University was opened under the sponsorship of the occupying Germans — who wanted to win Polish support for their war effort — Tatarkiewicz directed its philosophy department in 1915-1919. In 1919-1921 he was a professor at Vilnius University, in 1921-1923 at Poznań University, and in 1923-1961 again at Warsaw University. In 1930 he became a member of the Polish Academy of Sciences.

During World War II, risking his life, he conducted underground lectures in German-occupied Warsaw (one of the auditors was Czesław Miłosz). After the suppression of the Warsaw Uprising (August-October 1944) he again consciously risked his life by retrieving a manuscript from the gutter, where a German soldier had hurled it (this and other materials were later published as a book, in English translation titled Analysis of Happiness).

In his Memoirs, published shortly before his death, which came the day after his 94th birthday, Tatarkiewicz recalled having been ousted from his Warsaw University chair by a (politically-connected) former student. Characteristically, he saw even that indignity as a blessing in disguise, as it gave him freedom from academic duties and the leisure to pursue research and writing. He reflected philosophically that, at all crucial junctures of his life, he had failed to foresee events, many of them tragic, but that this had probably been for the better, since he couldn't have altered them anyway.


Tatarkiewicz belonged to the interbellum Lwów-Warsaw School of Philosophy, created by Kazimierz Twardowski, which gave reborn Poland many outstanding scholars and scientists: philosophers, logicians, psychologists, sociologists, and organizers of academia.

Tatarkiewicz educated generations of Polish philosophers, estheticians and art historians, as well as a multitude of interested laymen. He posthumously continues to do so through his famous History of Philosophy and numerous other works.

  • History of Philosophy, three volumes (Polish: Historia filozofii, vols. 1-2, 8th ed. 1978; vol. 3, 5th ed. 1978).
  • History of Aesthetics, three volumes (vols. 1-2, 1970; vol. 3, 1974; Polish: Historia estetyki, vols. 1-2, 1962; vol. 3, 1967).
  • Analysis of Happiness (1976; Polish: O Szczęściu [On Happiness], 1962).
  • A History of Six [aesthetic] Ideas (1980; Polish: Dzieje sześciu pojęć, 2nd ed. 1976).
  • On Perfection (English translation serialized in Dialectics and Humanism: the Polish Philosophical Quarterly, vol. VI, no. 4 [autumn 1979] — vol. VIII, no. 2 [spring 1981]; Polish: O doskonałości, 1976).
  • Memoirs (Polish: Wspomnienia, 1979).

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