A memoir of Prof. Jerzy Perzanowski (died 17 May 2009)


My memoir of Prof. dr. hab. Jerzy Perzanowski is very personal. The first time we met was in Lublin in 1974. As a fifth-year philosophy student at Catholic University in Lublin (KUL), I received a request from Fr. Prof. Stanisław Kamiński to invite Dr. Stanisław Surma, Doc. Dr. Andrzej Wroński and Dr. Jerzy Perzanowski who were commuting with lectures on logic from Kraków to Maria Curie-Skłodowska University (UMCS) in Lublin to also lead lectures to the students of Theoretical Philosophy Section at KUL. The invitation was accepted. The way in which Dr. Jerzy Perzanowski introduced us to the arcana of model theory was a great intellectual experience for us.

After graduating, by fate I ended up in Kraków in 1975 with the aim of preparing a doctoral thesis in the Logic Department of Jagiellonian University in Kraków (UJ). The conversation with the then director Prof. Stanisław Surma – still remains a particularly pleasant memory for me. I was included in the ‘Family’ (I’m quoting Prof. S. Surma) which meant the employees of the Logic Department. The style of scholarly work and the tone of lively discussions during the seminars at that time were dictated by Prof. Stanisław Surma, Doc. Andrzej Wroński and Dr. Jerzy Perzanowski. Their scientific passion, professionalism, moral standpoint and kindness towards younger scholars and postgraduate students were something that obliged us to do well.

After completing my doctoral thesis in 1980 under the tutorship of Prof. Andrzej Wroński, my contacts with Jurek [diminutive of Jerzy] Perzanowski turned into a sincere friendship. We kept in touch constantly, especially in the last years of his battle with his illness.

I owe him for his sincere encouragement while I completed my habilitation thesis, on the ontological proofs of the existence of God. Jurek was an unquestionable specialist in that subject.

He had a vision of a Great Philosophy, he attempted to reintroduce the program by Jan Łukasiewicz and others – the ‘mathematization of philosophy’ as it was known. The term ‘logical philosophy’ which was already well-founded in Polish logic-philosophical literature – was coined by  him. He had an incredible memory, which along with his mathematical education resulted in excellent scientific achievements. He designed publications from the area of logic and ontology in detail. Father Prof. Józef Bocheński, asked by his students about which of the living Polish philosophers he would name as particularly outstanding, he named two; and one of them was Jerzy Perzanowski.

Apart from his scholarly and didactic work, Jurek gave all his heart into supporting the foundation Wspólnota Nadziei [Community of Hope] and the project of creating the first Central European farm for autistic people in a village outside of Kraków.

His last text Does God exist or not, written over the course of a few weeks while a patient  at the dr. Jan Biziel University Hospital in Bydgoszcz, Jurek dedicated to dr. hab. Arkadiusz Jawień and the entire surgical team which operated on him multiple times and surrounded him with constant medical care. The text (also published in Tygodnik Powszechny) fully characterizes his attitude towards these two areas: science and faith.

In my memory, I cherish the last telephone conversation with Jurek on Holy Thursday this year. On that special day in priesthood, he wished me an ardent priestly attitude rich in divine providence, deep faith. He said about himself: I will soon go to the Good Father. Similar to his Son, I will die to rise from the dead. Thank you, Jurek – MY DEAR FRIEND!

Mirosław Szatkowski