The Philosophy of Nicolai Hartmann. Between Inspiration and Reception.
Nicolaus Copernicus University, Toruń, Poland, 3-4 June, 2011
The conference was organized by Ryszard Wisniewski and Tomasz Siwiec from the Department of Philosophy of Nicolaus Copernicus University. It was the first Polish conference entirely dedicated to Hartmann’s philosophy. The conference brought together eleven polish Hartmann-scholars interested in such topics as Hartmann’s epistemology, ontology, ethics, aesthetic and his theoretical relation to nineteenth and twentieth-century philosophy.
The first speaker was Dorota Barcik, PhD student in philosophy at Opole University, who gave a talk entitled “Metaphysics as a Consideration of Philosophical Problems”. Barcik, who is working on her PhD dissertation on Karl Jaspers’ philosophy, compared Hartmann’s and Jaspers’ views on irrationality. Hartmann gave us a brilliant explication of Kant’s thought about the unknowability of the thing in itself. The object of knowledge is only a part of being. When we consider being with reference to our knowledge we can speak about three parts of being: (1) the part of actual objection of being (the actual object of knowledge), (2) part of possible objection of being (the possible object of knowledge) and (3) part of gnoseological irrationality of being. Philosophy is a domain of problems with irrational residuum. We cannot solve all problems but we can consider them, because boundaries of knowledge are not boundaries of thinking.
Barbara Czardybon, PhD student in philosophy at the Jagiellonian University in Krakow, gave a talk on “Nicolai Hartmann’s Metaphysics of Cognition and Siemon L. Frank’s Ontologism”. Czardybon compared Hartmann’s return from neo-Kantianism to ontology with the development of Frank’s thinking, representative of the Russian religious-philosophical renaissance of the twentieth century. Noting the similarities between these two philosophical projects, Sergiusz A. Lewicki claimed that the philosophy of Frank had an influence on Hartmann during his studies in Petersburg (1903-1905). Czardybon claimed that this thesis is unjustified. In fact, in this time (1903-1905) Frank’s thinking was still very close to neo-Kantianism. The ontological phase of his philosophy came later, when Hartmann left Petersburg.
Czardybon was followed by Marek Jankowski, PhD student at Nicolaus Copernicus University in Torun, who gave a talk “Hartmann and Kant on the Concept of Negative Freedom”. The aim of this speech was to compare Kant’s and Hartmann’s views on the problem of freedom. As is well known, both Kant and Hartmann asked whether free will is compatible with natural determination. Jankowski presented the problem of negative and positive freedom. He claimed that Hartmann was mistaken when he rejected negative freedom. In Kant’s philosophy there is no positive freedom without negative freedom. In the discussion the problem of various levels of determinations in Hartmann’s ontology was considered.
Alicja Pietras, Adjunct Professor at the Pomerian Univeristy in Slupsk gave an interpretation of “Nicolai Hartmann as a Post-Neo-Kantian”. Pietras spoke about both Hartmann’s and Heidegger’s critique of neo-Kantianism, their ontological interpretations of Kant, their different approaches to Kantian issues such as the problem of the ambiguity of the notion of “thing in itself” and the problem of the distinction between being and irrationality. She also compared their philosophical projects, namely Hartmann’s critical ontology and Heidegger’s fundamental ontology. Pietras argued that Hartmann’s new ontology, which Josef Stallmach accurately named ontology of self-existing being (Ansichsein), is much more post-neo-Kantian than Heidegger’s ontology, named by Stallmach ontology of understanding of being (Seinverstehen), which is a continuation of the modern project of transcendentalism.
The next speaker was Waldemar Prusik, Adjunct Professor at the University of Szczecin, who gave a speech about “Nicolai Hartmann’s Notion of Reality”. The aim of this speech was to defend that Hartmann’s theory of being is not realist. Prusik claimed that in Hartmann’s philosophy the notion of being considered in a metaphysical perspective is contradictory. The reason for this is, according to the speaker, that in Hartmann’s ontology some parts of being are transintelligible and some are not. Being is and is not intelligible at the same time. For this reason Prusik called Hartmann’s ontology ‘idealistic’ rather than ‘realistic’. This presentation was judged controversial. It seemed to some to be a consequence of using Hartmann’s notions outside of its proper context.
After Prusik, Artur Mordka, Professor at the University of Rzeszow, gave a talk entitled “Critical Ontology and the Problem of Valuation of Regions of Being”. Hartmann’s critical ontology pretends to avoid errors of the old ontologies. One of these errors was the metaphysical valuation of some spheres of being, e.g., the claim that real being has more being that ideal being or inversely. In Hartmann’s ontology there are two primary spheres of being (the real and the ideal) and two secondary spheres of being (the logical and the epistemological). For one it can look like classical valuation of some spheres of being. The real and the ideal being are existentially prior to the object of knowledge (the epistemological being), which exists only in relation to subject. But, as Mordka claimed, this is not a metaphysical valuation. In his ontology Hartmann modifies the meaning of classical metaphysical notions like independence, dependence, and priority. He gives them new ontologically neutral meanings.
Jakub Dziadkowiec, PhD student in philosophy at the John Paul II Catholic University of Lublin gave a speech about “Stratalism in Nicolai Hartmann’s Ontology – The Critical Approach”. The aim of this talk was to present Hartmann’s stratalism (theory of ontological levels). Dziadkowiec defined ‘stratalism’ as a “philosophical position, according to which the real world manifests a layered structure, contains partially separated ontological levels, relations between them, and concrete things, that include specified layers and their categories.” Dziadkowiec presented a set of Hartmannian notions and theses like the four strata (levels) of real being, some relations between ontological levels, the notion of categories and categorical laws etc. He claimed that Hartmann’s ontology of real being is one of the most articulated but still uncompleted theories of ontological levels. Hartmann deals with vertical relations between levels, but there is still a need for the explanation of horizontal relations within consecutive levels. We can also complete Hartmann’s stratalism with the considerations of problems such as the problem of environmental factors, the problem of emergence, etc.
The last speaker of the first day of the conference was Tomasz Siwiec, PhD student at the Nicolaus Copernicus University in Torun, who gave a talk entitled “Hartmann’s Idea of Real Entity in Konrad Lorenz’s Interpretation”. Siwiec presented Hartmann’s philosophy in relation to Lorenz’s evolutionary epistemology. Lorenz in his article “Kants Lehre vom Apriorischen im Lichte gegenwärtiger Biologie” (1941) gave an evolutionary interpretation of Kant’s doctrine of a priori forms of cognition. According to this interpretation the a prori forms of intuition (space and time) and the a priori forms of understanding (categories) are products of a process of evolutionary adaptation to the environment. Lorenz agrees with Hartmann’s understanding of the relation between Kantian appearances and thing in itself and he proposes a standpoint that he calls ‘hypothetical realism’. Our a prori forms of cognition are hypothetically identical with the forms of things in themselves. As long as we can use them successfully we do not have reason to claim that they are not forms of things in themselves. This theory corresponds with Hartmann’s doctrine of the partial identity between categories of cognition and categories of being.
The second day began with Leszek Kopciuch’s speech about ‘The Ethics of Nicolai Hartmann in Context of Main Contemporary Positions in Ethics’. Kopciuch began by presenting the problem of the ideal existence of values in Hartmann’s ontology. Then he considered Hartmann’s ethics in the context of three contemporary metaethical disputes: the dispute between deontological ethics and consequentialism, the disputes between motivational externalism and motivational internalism and the disputes between compatibilism and incompatibilism. In the context of the first dispute Kopciuch classified Hartmann’s ethics between deontology and consequentialism. From the point of view of Hartmann’s critical ontology the opposition between these two metaethical standpoints is false. In the relation to the second dispute Kopciuch claimed that Hartmann represents some moderate version of moral internalism. According to Hartmann our moral conviction that X ought to be done (which Hartmann identify with our knowledge of values) is motivation to do X but this motivation is not sufficient. In the context of the third dispute Hartmann is a compatibilist for he believes that free will and determinism are not only compatible but that determinism is even a necessary condition of the possibility of free will.
After Kopciuch, Ryszard Wisniewski, Professor at the Nicolaus Copernicus University in Torun, gave a speech still related to the topic of Hartmann’s ethics entitled “Tadeusz Styczen’s Early Critique of Hartmann’s Theory of Virtue”. Styczen, the student of Karol Wojtyla, wrote his MA dissertation about Hartmann’s ethics. This work is related to Wojtyla’s work on Max Scheler’s ethics. Both of them – Wojtyla and Styczen –criticize material-value ethics in the context of Aristotle’s virtue ethics. As has been pointed out in the discussion on material-value ethics, there is a very important problem: “If value can be a aim of human act, what are the consequences of it?”
The presentation of Krzysztof Lipka, Adjunct Professor at the Fryderyk Chopin University of Music, deals with “Layers of the Music Work of Art in Nicolai Hartmann’s Expression. Continuation and Perspectives”. Lipka began by presenting Hartmann’s view on the musical work of art. Then he considered the “absolute” music by using Hartmann’s notions. In musicology there is a problem with theoretically grasping the “matter” of this kind of work of art. Lipka claimed that we can use Hartmann’s theory of levels to consider this problem. He proposed to distinguish between levels of form and levels of matter of the work of art. Then he tried to apply the levels perspective to further solve problems like that of the functionality of work of art.