Obituary: Jerzy Giedymin
Thursday 05 August 1993
JERZY GIEDYMIN was a philosopher and logician who was well known to and respected by both the Polish scientific community and by the community of philosophers of science in the West.
Born in 1925, Giedymin studied philosophy, logic and philology at the Universities of Krakow and Poznan. In Krakow he was mainly interested in epistemology, aesthetics and philosophy of logic from the phenomenologist viewpoint. In Poznan he concentrated on the philosophy of science taught by Kazimierz Ajdukiewicz, one of the most original and distinguished of Poland's philosophers of the present century.
Between 1950 and 1953 he lectured on economics and economic planning at the Poznan School of Economics and in 1953 was appointed lecturer in Logic and Philosophy of Science at Poznan University. At this time he worked mainly with Ajdukiewicz in Poznan and later with Kotarbinski and Janina Kotarbinska in Warsaw. He was also in touch with logicians such as Suszko, Mostowski and Grzegorczyk and philosophically minded sociologists. In 1961 he was appointed to the Chair of Logic and Philosophy of Science at the University of Poznan and headed the Department of Logic.
Giedymin was no friend of Communism, though he had to be rather well acquainted with Marxist economics and philosophy in order to survive as a university teacher. One of his efforts in that connection was to argue that Marx's sociology of knowledge was concerned with providing sociological explanations for intellectual mistakes and blunders, rather than with radical sociological relativism.
Between 1957 and 1960 he had visited the London School of Economics as a Ford Foundation Scholar to study in Karl Popper's department, where he made an impression by his quiet, serious and thoughtful views. He returned to England in 1966 and after a short period in Durham settled permanently in Sussex, later to become a naturalised British subject. At Sussex University he was first attached to the School of Social Sciences and subsequently headed the Division of Logic and Scientific Method in the School of Mathematical and Physical Sciences. He was appointed Reader in 1970, a post which he held until his retirement. He served as President of the British Society for the Philosophy of Science from 1983 to 1985.
In his formative years Giedymin was affected mainly by three different schools of thought in philosophy: the phenomenology of Roman Ingarde (a student of Edmund Husserl); the conventionalist philosophy of Ajdukiewicz; and the critical philosophy of Karl Popper. He was instrumental in introducing Popper's philosophy to Poland in an important paper 'Inductivism and Anti-Inductivism' published in Polish in 1959. In the other direction, his collection The Scientific World-Perspective and Other Essays 1931-1963 brought for the first time to English-speaking readers a sizeable collection of the articles of Ajdukiewicz.
Giedymin's interest in conventionalism, its origin and significance, lasted all his life and had its fullest expression in his book Science and Convention. At the time of his death he was planning a book on late 19th-century electromagnetism in which he was to expound the 'pluralist' view of scientific theories that he associated with the ideas of Hamilton, Hertz and Poincare.
In private life Giedymin had many interests, including music, especially the operas and piano concerti of Mozart, and gardening. He also took great pleasure in driving through the Sussex countryside at a speed uncharacteristic of his normally cautious nature. Although a charming and generous host in company, he chose to satisfy the affective side of his nature more through art and literature than in day-to-day contact with people.
In spite of staying in England during the last 30 years, he was still in contact with colleagues and friends in Poland and was on an extended visit there at the time of sudden death. He was buried with his parents in the cemetery in Pila. He will be remembered warmly as a man of quiet intelligence, charm and dignity.
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