Tomasz Mróz

Philosophy / U. of Zielona Góra

65–762 Zielona Góra, Lubuskie, Poland



Wincenty Lutosławski (1863–1954) was internationally recognized in the academic world as a prominent Plato scholar. His fragmentary correspondence with Bertrand Russell is presented in this paper. Before World War II he initiated an exchange of letters with Russell on issues such as reincarnation, but the replies he received were laconic and discouraging. This changed, however, after the war when Russell published his History of Western Philosophy. Despite their different philosophical positions, Lutosławski’s opinion on this work as a whole was favourable, in particular the chapters on Plato. Such an assessment was the exception rather than the rule for that book, and knowing Lutosławski’s general recognition in Platonic studies, Russell forwarded the letter to his publisher.





he aim of this paper is to supplement the list of Russell’s Polish correspondents with Wincenty Lutosławski (1863–1954), and to introduce Russell readers to his life and his most substantial ideas and influential works, though in the first half of the twentieth century Lutosławski was internationally recognized in the academic world as a prominent Plato scholar, and in his homeland as a propagator of Polish national messianism. Lutosławski’s studies on Plato and their reception, as well as his own philosophical system, must be presented, for these explain some aspects of his correspondence with Russell.

   Born in 1863 into a fairly wealthy aristocratic family whose ancestral residence was the village of Drozdowo near Łomża, Poland, then under Russian rule, Wincenty, a firstborn son, was able to complete his education at recognized Russian institutions. First, he attended what is now Riga Technical University in Latvia, for his father expected him to study natural sciences, especially chemistry, so that he could take over and develop one of the family businesses, a brewery of established reputation. He then moved to the Imperial Russian University in Dorpat (Tartu), now in Estonia, and graduated in chemistry (one of his teachers was W. Ostwald). Soon, however, his interests in philosophy prevailed and he also obtained a degree in philosophy under the supervision of G. Teichmüller. It should be remarked that in both these institutions, based in imperial Russia, his education was conducted in German. The subject of his thesis was a comparison of theories of political revolution in Plato, Aristotle, and Machiavelli, and was quite favourably reviewed by Teichmüller himself, and by F. Susemihl and É. Durkheim.

   Having completed this dissertation, Lutosławski decided to focus solely on Plato. Meanwhile he married a Spanish poet and writer, Sofía Casanova, and they both travelled between Spain, Moscow and Kazan, where he had a position as a lecturer, and London, where he was engaged in researching the literature on Plato, resulting ultimately in a lengthy volume titled The Origin and Growth of Plato’s Logic with an Account of Plato’s Style and of the Chronology of His Writings (1897),[2] which—to his disappointment—did not secure him a permanent position at the Jagiellonian University in Kraków, though it had been promised to him by the Dean of the Faculty of Philosophy. This book, together with his preceding papers on this topic in German, Polish, French and English, brought him to the attention of Plato scholars worldwide. However, leading Plato scholars, classicists and philosophers showed no signs of haste in analysing his works, and his critical attitude towards reputed German researchers only incited them to produce polemical papers, reviews or notes. His works on Plato were received quite positively, though not uncritically, in reviews and studies by, for example, L. Campbell,[3] H. Vaihinger, T. Gomperz, C. Ritter, H. Ræder, G. Santayana, while the most critical responses came from P. Shorey (who was generally sceptical of Continental research on Plato) and E. Zeller, among others. It should be noted that the founder of the Lvov–Warsaw school of philosophy, K. Twardowski, included a special lecture on the polemic between Zeller and Lutosławski in his university course on Greek philosophy. Almost all of the above authors focused on the first part of his book, which dealt with his method of stylometry, a complex language statistics method, and with the chronological order of the dialogues resulting from this method. The author himself considered this to be merely a preparatory study, an introduction to his research into Plato’s philosophical evolution. Despite the mixed response to his work, Lutosławski’s reputation as a Plato scholar was established, and although not all of his conclusions were accepted, they still proved to be beneficial, for they inspired a number of scholars to reflect on this method of researching the chronology of Plato’s dialogues.

   After establishing his international reputation as a Plato scholar, Lutosławski abandoned Plato to develop his own philosophical system, the metaphysical foundations of which stemmed from his own interpretation of the mature views of Plato. In brief, according to Lutosławski, Plato had been an idealist, as he was traditionally labelled, and a communist thinker in his akme, but in later years he changed his views, abandoned communism and evolved towards spiritualism, shifting the central point of his system from the ideas to eternal, reincarnating souls, which formed a hierarchy of spiritual perfection. This idea of individualism and spiritualism was combined by Lutosławski with the nineteenth-century Christian tradition of Polish philosophy, that is, the philosophy of national messianism. In most general terms, according to this philosophy, Poles, who had no independent political existence in the nineteenth century and experienced oppression from three neighbouring monarchies (Russia, Prussia, and the Austro-Hungarian Empire), were credited with having the Christ-like mission of redeeming humanity by means of their suffering, and of uniting all the nations to bring humanity closer to the future kingdom of God. Lutosławski modernized this view, stressing its metaphysical foundations and their ancient, Platonic roots, with emphasis on the immortality of reincarnating souls.

   In the interwar period Lutosławski took up a position at Vilnius University, now in Lithuania, but he preferred to devote his time and energy to disseminating his philosophy and related ideas. He delivered numerous open lectures on the metaphysics of marriage and on economics based on Christian ethics and individual contributions to national welfare, exhorting his audiences to adopt healthy lifestyles with dieting and abstinence and to work on their spiritual and intellectual development. When he retired in the thirties, he settled in Kraków, where he survived World War II and died in 1954. Until his last days he worked on developing his views into a uniform system.

   He proved to be the first to bring to the attention of most Plato scholars the importance of language statistics as a means of establishing the chronology of the dialogues, which he himself had researched and developed on an unprecedented scale. The method itself subsequently came to be associated with Lutosławski’s research.[4] His conclusions on chronology, the main point of which was to demonstrate that the so-called dialectical and critical dialogues (e.g. the Theaetetus, Sophist, Statesman and Parmenides) belonged to the late phase of Plato’s philosophical development, significantly contributed to the rejection of the view of the youthful character of some of these dialogues, as well as demonstrating Plato’s philosophical evolution. It is generally accepted that the dominant view of Plato’s chronology stems from the works of three researchers: Lutosławski, Ræder and Ritter.[5] There is no evidence that Russell read Lutosławski’s book. It was sufficient for Russell to accept the most general outline of Plato’s chronology. Plato’s Logic, however, provided inspiration for both some significant contemporary philosophers and those succeeding him. C.S. Peirce, for example, who admired Lutosławski’s method, though not his philosophical biases, was encouraged to turn to Plato’s original texts;[6] while others, such as K.R. Popper, simply adopted Luto­sławski’s chronology of the dialogues and with only insignificant modifications used it for his own philosophical purposes.[7] In the English-speaking philosophical world, Lutosławski’s position and premisses still find advocates who, though aware of the deficiencies of stylometry, still either support the chronological conclusions of Campbell, Lutosławski and others against revolutionary and almost untenable chronological hypotheses,[8] or, admitting the ‘orthodox status’ of some of his conclusions, attempt to refine and correct them.[9]


lutosawskis correspondence with russell


The amount of correspondence between Lutosławski and Russell that has been preserved up to the present is not impressive, yet in some respects it is significant.[10] In the following presentation and discussion of the substance of this correspondence the focus is on the issues of how they started to exchange letters in the interwar period, what Lutosławski’s expectations were, and how he was disillusioned by Russell. Finally, the last chord of their correspondence from 1948 will be discussed more extensively, since it supplements the reception of Russell’s History of Western Philosophy.[11]

   Initiating correspondence with well-known figures such as Russell was quite a run-of-the-mill occurrence for Lutosławski, who continually sought philosophical contacts abroad. While a professor at Vilnius University, he had special postcards printed in English, and by the end of 1928 he had sent off several dozen to different destinations abroad. Russell must have been one of the addressees of this postcard, the text of which read as follows:


    Whenever I like and esteem an author, a question occurs to me, which refers to a problem to which I have given forty years of my life. Have you ever in your life met persons fully convinced of having lived before? Are you not aware yourself that you must have existed before? I have myself this certainty, which I believe to have fully justified in my recent book, Pre-existence and Reincarnation, published by Allen and Unwin in 1928. In it I have made the attempt to prove by new and convincingly decisive arguments that old truth, so well known in India, Greece and Celtic Gaul, now very much acknowledged chiefly in Poland and France, but also by such writers as Walt Whitman, Tennyson, Longfellow, Browning, Kipling, Edwin Arnold, Carpenter, Rider Haggard, Fielding Hall, Clifford Bax, Algernon Blackwood, Arnold Bennett, Lafcadio Hearn, etc. namely that each of us has lived in human shape many times and that we reap now what we have sown ages ago. Did you ever come across another book on that subject? Do you know other authors betraying belief in reincarnation? I do not count so called Theosophists who blindly believe what they are told. What I seek are genuine spontaneous testimonies, independent of any literary suggestion. Do you know such? I am preparing a new edition of my book, in which I should like to include more references.[12]


   The subject of the book Pre-existence and Reincarnation was the theory and history of these concepts which had originated in antiquity. To substantiate the theory of reincarnation Lutosławski compared spiritual evolution to the theory of natural evolution. Just as essential progress could not be achieved within one generation in biology, so progress in the spiritual and intellectual world required more than one incarnation. Every inborn talent brought into this world was the result of a great deal of effort in previous incarnations. The same applied to the development of moral perfection.




brief and discouraging replies from russell


The exchange of letters with Russell did not bring Lutosławski the enriching material that he might have expected:


Dear Dr. Lutoslawski,

    The question of pre-existence appears to me to be bound up with that of survival after death. I have occasionally discussed the latter question,[13] and since I see no reason to suppose that we continue to exist after the death of the body, I equally see no reason to suppose that we existed before conception. I am inclined to agree with you that the orthodox position which accepts post- but not pre-existence is illogical.

Yours sincerely,

Bertrand Russell.[14]


Similar short and unhelpful answers to Lutosławski’s request were sent, for example, by Santayana and Huxley. Russell’s laconic reply did not, however, discourage Lutosławski from making an attempt to write to him again on this subject.

   Lutosławski spent a significant amount of time in England during the interwar period, including a stay in London in the second half of 1927. During this trip he frequently visited Chesterton, who invited Lutosławski to his home in Beaconsfield. In 1928 Toynbee’s family stayed at the Lutosławskis’ home in Vilnius and then Lutosławski was their guest in England. In 1930 he attended the seventh International Congress of Philosophy in Oxford and did not fail to benefit from this opportunity to enjoy a prolonged stay in England. It is possible that it was during these trips that the Polish philosopher learnt more about Russell’s social and political work and may have had the opportunity to meet him, for Russell recalled a meeting in his second letter to Lutosławski. Although his two letters are separated by almost a decade, his attitude had not changed much:

Dear Sir

    Thank you for your letter and offprints. I remember our meeting; I was interested in your work, and glad to make your acquaintance. I do not know your Knowledge of Reality, but I have now read your article in The Monist. I am afraid our points of view are so far apart that we could hardly find any common ground for argument. As for survival after death,[15] I am willing to concede it as a bare possibility, but I think it so improbable that, for practical purposes, I assume the negative.

Yours sincerely

Bertrand Russell.[16]


   Russell, then, put an end to Lutosławski’s delusions about the possibility of their agreement, or even of discussion. Lutosławski must have asked Russell about his knowledge of his English books. Knowledge of Reality, mentioned by Russell, though not read by him, presented a vision of the historical development of philosophical systems. It began with materialism, and progressed through idealism, pantheism, spiritualism, mysticism and messianism, thus allowing all philosophers to be classified into one of these views. One of Luto­sławski’s goals in this book was to make readers aware of the possible diversity of views and their sources, so that they would realize the importance of using discourse rather than violence to convince one other of their world views.[17] It should be noted, however, that neither Pre-existence and Reincarnation nor Knowledge of Reality ever gained a reception comparable to that of his works on Plato.

   Although Russell did not read Knowledge and Reality, he did read Lutosławski’s article in The Monist, titled “A Theory of Matter” (1929), which must have been posted to him by the author. Actually, it consisted of a short selection of issues from several chapters of Knowledge of Reality.[18] Russell completely distanced himself from Luto­sławski’s philosophical views in the article, for in it the Polish philosopher analysed the different ways of experiencing matter. He began his arguments with scientific views on matter, discussing astronomy, physics, chemistry and biology, all of which resulted from passive observation of the material world. The higher stages, including art, sculpture, architecture, dance, painting, music, poetry, and dramaturgy, involved active human participation with matter. It can be reasonably doubted if Russell read this paper from beginning to end, because his views on matter articulated, for example, in The Analysis of Matter, show that his goal was to analyse the philosophical consequences of theories of modern physics, and this was quite distant from Luto­sławski’s aspirations.

   So much for the scanty correspondence between the two philosophers in the interwar period. Lutosławski’s earnest efforts to engage in some dialogue with Russell were dismissed, for Lutosławski’s questions concerning immortality and pre-existence or the spiritual influence exerted on matter were simply beyond Russell’s interests. This situation was about to change, however, when Russell produced his synthesis of the history of philosophy.


lutosawskis recognition of russells account of plato


Another decade was to pass before the final part of their correspondence appeared, after Russell had published his History of Western Philosophy in 1945. Lutosławski’s letter to Russell has survived in two draft versions in the Polish philosopher’s literary legacy in Kraków. This letter must have been a response to a previous letter from Russell, which, in turn, may have been provoked by Lutosławski’s third attempt to initiate correspondence with Russell. These two letters have, unfortunately, not survived.

   The preserved manuscripts of Lutosławski’s drafts bear the stamp of his age, for in 1948 he was 85 and was suffering from eye disease, which was clearly evident from his handwriting. This is the letter in extenso:


Dear Lord Russell,

    I thank you for your kind letter of 24. IV. You are quite right that we differ, especially in our attitude towards mysticism. But this matters less than to see how much we agree. Your History proves that we agree in our esteem of Plato. You give him 55 pp. while Aristotle gets 49, Locke 45 and all others much less. I have devoted to Plato 10 years of my life (1887–1897) and I believe to know him. In your six chapters on him I did not discover a single error and I agree with everything you say. If ever you read my book on Plato’s Logic (Longmans 1897) you will see how after 60 he gave up his communistic utopia and his theory of transcendent ideas, and came as near as possible to your logical analysis.

    Another important chapter is that on my friend William James, who wrote a splendid Preface to my World of Souls which he had read 24 years before its publication.[19] I agree with you in every point on what you say of him.

    I have read some of your earlier works, with which I often disagreed but I am very sorry I do not know and cannot get more recent works like: Sceptical Essays, Marriage and Morals, Conquest of Happiness, In Praise of Idleness, Inquiry into Meaning and Truth. If you could afford to send me some of them I would be delighted to read them and to tell you in what we agree. Books sent as a gift by post reach us but we are forbidden to export money from Poland and we cannot order foreign books from booksellers. I owe the History to an English friend who guessed that it would interest me. I always am more interested in those of an opposite camp than in these who are of my own party.[20] This is my way of loving our apparent enemies.

    Your History is really very good and may last longer than any of the books on your own thoughts. Your judgment on philosophy from Plato to James on p. 863[21] is certainly a very true opinion. Truth is more important than edification. We can do very little to improve others but we can by constant endeavors increase our knowledge of world and then improve ourselves. In this again I agree with you. The aim of a thinker is truth and this kind of men who value truth above everything is very rare. I believe you belong to them and have besides the rare gift of writing clearly without superfluous words.

    The lack of mystic experience increases your acuity in the intellectual activity and it is refreshing to read you after Ward, McTaggart, Samuel Alexander, Royce and others who cannot express concisely and clearly what they mean. “In the welter of conflicting fanatisms”[22] the unifying force is not only correct reasoning, but also an immediate intuition of what exceeds average understanding. That is the only point on which we sometimes differ but not as you say with antipathy.

Yours Sincerely

W. Lutosławski.[23]


   This letter demonstrates that Lutosławski had carefully studied Russell’s History, or at least those chapters of interest to him, for he clearly referred to specific passages of this book. His favourable words on Russell’s literary style and intellectual acuity and the general laudatory and conciliatory tone of the letter are evident. Lutosławski seems to have been replying to some of Russell’s more negative statements relating to the differences between them. Although Lutosławski confirmed these differences, his intention was to smooth over the negative emotions, preferring to stress what was more significant and could unite them both, that is, a respect for their devotion to truth.

   Lutosławski claimed to have agreed with Russell’s discussion of Plato, yet The Origin and Growth of Plato’s Logic and the chapters on Plato in History of the Western Philosophy do not have much in common. In Russell’s book Plato was just one philosopher among many others in the entire history of philosophy. Lutosławski supported his own interpretation of Plato with meticulous analyses of original Greek passages from the dialogues while Russell simply used the classical translations of Benjamin Jowett, whose first editions date back to the 1870s. Both authors, then, set themselves different goals and this resulted in disparate methods in their discussions of Platonism.

   Most likely, Russell did not know Lutosławski’s Plato’s Logic, for it was not necessary for his goals, and there is no need here to discuss in detail all the possible discrepancies in their respective views. The presentation of Plato in Russell’s book is in fact a discussion of some of the most important dialogues, accompanied with authorial commentary that was sometimes biased and personal, and referred to contemporary problems. The chapter “Plato’s Utopia” is essentially a discussion of the Republic, which is also the basis of the chapter “The Theory of Ideas”, with the Parmenides as a supplement in which Plato articulated important, critical arguments that emphasize the internal difficulties of the theory of ideas. The chapter “Plato’s Theory of Immortality” was based on the Phaedo, with references to the Crito and the Meno; “Plato’s Cosmogony”, on the Timaeus, considered by Russell to have no philosophical significance; and finally “Knowledge and Perception in Plato”, on selected passages from the Theaetetus. Altogether only four dialogues were discussed extensively, with references to three more. This could not pretend to be an extensive historical presentation of Plato’s works. More dialogues are mentioned by Russell in his chapters on Protagoras and on Socrates, but they are used there as sources, of not unquestionable reliability, to discuss these men’s views and not Plato’s.

   Unlike Lutosławski, Russell, obviously, did not interpret Platonism as a philosophical evolution towards a spiritualist system, but rather saw Plato as a philosopher who posed many substantial problems for the development of philosophy. Yet his attempts to solve them in the dialogues resulted in a number of errors and pseudo-problems that have continued to be discussed by subsequent generations of philosophers.

   In declaring that he had not found any errors in Russell’s work, Lutosławski may have merely considered Russell’s discussion of particular dialogues to be accurate. When Russell discussed the Phaedo, he was much more focused on Plato’s theory of knowledge and on the fallacies of reasoning in his arguments for the immortality of the soul than on reincarnation, which latter topic was essential for Lutosławski. It would have been pointless for Lutosławski to object to Russell’s selective discussion of the content of single dialogues; such a discussion could not be regarded as an error.

   The chapter “The Influence of Sparta”, which is followed by a discussion on the Republic, provides evidence that Plato’s political views, his project of utopia, were of great significance to Russell. He made his attitude to Plato clear: “I wish to understand him, but to treat him with as little reverence as if he were a contemporary English or American advocate of totalitarianism” (HWP2, p. 125). Lutosławski, on the other hand, argued in favour of the thesis that Plato had departed from his utopian project in his later years; but for Russell this fact was insignificant as he aimed to assess social ideas in the Republic by more modern standards, and the following comparison is symptomatic of his method:


… in the main Plato is concerned only with the guardians, who are to be a class apart, like the Jesuits in old Paraguay, the ecclesiastics in the States of the Church until 1870, and the Communist Party in the u.s.s.r. at the present day. (HWP2, pp. 129–30)


   Lutosławski referred Russell to his book on Plato, in which he not only demonstrated how Plato had departed from his communist ideals, but also how close he had come to logical analysis. According to Lutosławski, in the late dialogues, for example in the Sophist, Russell could have encountered some considerations (the questions of defining concepts and of analysis and synthesis in the scientific method) that, in Lutosławski’s eyes, had much in common with Russell’s interests.


fate of lutosawskis letter to russell


Lutosławski’s words must have been valued by Russell, since on receipt of the letter, he immediately forwarded it to his publisher, Sir Stanley Unwin, of George Allen & Unwin Ltd.


Dear Unwin

    I enclose a letter from Lutoslawski, who, poor man, is marooned in Krakow. I am sending it to you for two reasons. The lesser, that he says he has found no errors in my account of Plato, which, from so eminent an authority, is high praise. The major reason, that he would like to have some books of mine, and I should be glad to give them to him (except Marriage and Morals). I do not know which are in print, but if any are, could you send them with the author’s compliments?”

    I am glad the History is again available.

    I am just off to Sweden for 10 days.

Yours sincerely

Bertrand Russell.[24]


Unwin replied:


Dear Russell,

    Thank you for the sight of the enclosed letter from Lutoslawski. His tribute to your account of Plato is indeed high praise. As you will see from the accompanying invoice, we have sent him, with your compliments, the three other books of yours which are at the moment available. They fortunately include sceptical essays for which he particularly asked. The amount of the invoice will, of course, be deducted from your royalties in the usual way.[25] 


Russell, then, whether he had ever read Lutosławski’s book or not, regarded him as an eminent authority in Platonic scholarship, and realized that Lutosławski’s surname would be easily recognized by a publisher who had published two of his books in previous decades. Russell must have been grateful to Lutosławski, since he decided to repay him with a selection of his books, and this should not come as a surprise as Russell’s account of Plato did not always met with positive reviews. Modestly, however, he suggested that this praise was only a minor reason for forwarding the letter to Allen & Unwin.






The above correspondence is fragmentary; we only have Russell’s replies to Lutosławski’s letters, but to some extent we can infer Lutosławski’s questions. We do not know Russell’s letter of 1948 to Lutosławski, which provoked the latter to articulate his opinions on Russell’s History. We are, however, fortunate to know the subsequent history of this response. It cannot be ascertained whether Lutosławski received the books sent by Allen & Unwin.

   Lutosławski’s attitude should, however, be appreciated, for despite his age and failing health, despite the conditions in post-war Poland, he took the time to carefully write, improve and send a letter praising Russell’s work. Moreover, Lutosławski seems to have been unaffected by Russell’s previous dismissive replies to his philosophical questions, and he sought an agreement on the most fundamental values. As for Russell, he gained a favourable opinion on his presentation of Plato from a scholar who had earned his international reputation on the basis of his works on Plato. This opinion was the most significant outcome of the contacts between them, for their achievements were too disparate to allow any fruitful cooperation.



works cited


Brandwood, Leonard. The Chronology of Plato’s Dialogues. Cambridge: Cambridge U. P., 1990.

Lutosawski, Wincenty. The Origin and Growth of Plato’s Logic with an Account of Plato’s Style and of the Chronology of His Writings. London: Longmans, Green, 1897.

—. The World of Souls. London: Allen & Unwin, 1924.

—. Pre-existence and Reincarnation. London: Allen & Unwin, 1928.

—. “A Theory of Matter”. The Monist 3 (1929): 365–94.

—. The Knowledge of Reality. Cambridge: Cambridge U. P., 1930.

Mróz, Tomasz. “Bertranda Russella spot­­kanie z Wincentym Lutosławskim”. Przegląd Filozoficzny n.s 17 (2008): 83–100.

—. “Bertranda Russella spotkania z filozofią polską (L. Chwistek, W. Lutosławski, S. Themerson)”. Studia Philosophica Wratislaviensia 6 (2011): 71–82.

—. “Wincenty Lutosławski Platonic Studies: Plato as an inspiration for Polish Messianism”. In Metaphysical Patterns in Platonism: Ancient, Medieval, Renaissance, and Modern Times. Ed. J.F. Finamore, R.M. Berchman, Dilton Marsh. Prometheus Trust, 2014.

—. “Scottish-Polish Cooperation on Plato at the Turn of the Twentieth Century”. Journal of Scottish Philosophy 16 (2018): 125–45.

O’Hara, David L. “Peirce, Plato and Miracles: On the Mature Peirce’s Re-Discovery of Plato and the Overcoming of Nominalistic Prejudice in History”. Transactions of the Charles S. Peirce Society 44 (2008): 26–39.

Pawowski, Adam. “Wincenty Luto­s­ławski (1863–1954); a Forgotten Father of Stylometry”. Glottometrics 8 (2004): 83–89.

—, and Artur Pacewicz. “Wincenty Lutosławski (1863–1954); Philosophe, helléniste ou fondateur sous-estimé de la stylométrie”. Historiographia Linguistica 31 (2004): 423–47.

Popper, Karl R. The Open Society and Its Enemies. Vol. 1. London: Routledge & Sons, 1945.

Prior, William J. Unity and Development in Plato’s Metaphysics. La Salle: Open Court, 1985.

Russell, Bertrand. What I Believe. London: Kegan Paul, Trench, Trubner, 1925. In WINC.

—. AMa.

—. “Has Religion Made Useful Contributions to Civilization?”. The Debunker and the American Parade, 10, no. 1 (June 1929): 3–16; in WINC; 30 in Papers 10.

—. “Do We Survive Death?”. In The Mysteries of Life and Death. London: Hutch­inson, 1936. In WINC; as 41 in Papers 21.

—. HWP2. (Here the 2nd printing, 1947.)

—. WINC.

Sayre, Kenneth M. Plato’s Late Ontology: a Riddle Resolved. usa: Parmenides, 2005.

Thesleff, Holger. Studies in Platonic Chronology. Helsinki: Societas Scientiarum Fennica, 1982.

Wahl, Russell. “The Reception of Russell’s A History of Western Philosophy”. Russell 39 (2019): 46–56.


[1]   Some of the content of this paper appeared in a paper in Polish (“Bertranda Russella spotkanie z Wincentym Lutosławskim” [2008]). The author addressed the matter of Russell’s Polish correspondents in another paper (“Bertranda Russella spotkania z filozofią polską (L. Chwistek, W. Lutosławski, S. Themerson)” [2011]). He wishes to thank the editor for his encouragement. Words of gratitude should also go to the employees of the Archive of Science of the Polish Academy of Sciences (pan) and the Polish Academy of Arts and Sciences (pau) in Kraków (Archiwum Nauki pan i pau), where they recently discovered a more extensive draft of Lutosławski’s 1948 letter to Russell and helped the author of this paper to acquaint himself with this document. The language editing of this text was done by Una Maclean-Hańćkowiak.

[2]   A concise English report on Lutosławski’s studies on Plato can be found in: Pawowski, “Wincenty Lutosławski (1863–1954); a Forgotten Father of Stylometry” (2004); Mróz, “Wincenty Lutosławski Platonic Studies: Plato as an Inspiration for Polish Messianism” (2014), or in French in: Pawowski and Pacewicz, “Wincenty Lutosławski (1863–1954); Philosophe, helléniste ou fondateur sous-estimé de la stylométrie” (2004). There are also numerous Polish works on this subject.

[3]   Cf. Mróz, “Scottish-Polish Cooperation on Plato at the Turn of the Twentieth Century” (2018).

[4]  Brandwood, The Chronology of Plato’s Dialogues (1990), pp. 130, 135.

[5]  Thesleff, Studies in Platonic Chronology (1982), p. 4.

[6]  O’Hara, “Peirce, Plato and Miracles” (2008), pp. 28–30. O’Hara supposes that James, who had received a copy of Lutosławski’s book from the author himself, then handed it over to Peirce.

[7]  Popper, The Open Society and Its Enemies (1945), pp. 183, 264.

[8]  Prior, Unity and Development in Plato’s Metaphysics (1985), pp. 2–3, 179–85, 192–3.

[9]  Sayre, Plato’s Late Ontology (2005), pp. 256–67.

[10]  Lutosławski’s abundant manuscript legacy is preserved in the Archives of Science of the Polish Academy of Sciences and the Polish Academy of Arts and Sciences in Kraków, and it testifies to his correspondence with acquaintances worldwide, for among them were, e.g., Mahatma Gandhi, H. Bergson, W. James, J. Conrad, A. Huxley, A. Toynbee, G.K. Chesterton, E.S. Brightman, E. Mounier, C. de Foucauld, as well as many reviewers of his works, numerous people who attended and responded to his lectures, and somewhat surprising personalities such as H. Ford.

[11]  Cf. Wahl, “The Reception of Russell’s A History of Western Philosophy” (2019).

[12]  A copy of this postcard in the author’s collection.

[13] Russell had discussed immortality in his 1925 What I Believe, pp. 14–18, and again in an essay, “Has Religion Made Useful Contributions to Civilization?” (1929), first published in the same month as his letter was written. Both are reprinted in Why I Am Not a Christian.

[14]  A typewritten letter from Beacon Hill School, Harting, Petersfield, 4 June 1929 (Archiwum Nauki pan i pau, Kraków, K-III-155). Russell’s letter, and especially its last sentence, appear to address more questions than those printed on Lutosławski’s postcard, so the postcard may have been accompanied by a letter or note.

[15] Two years before he wrote this letter Russell published “Do We Survive Death?” (in WINC and 41 in Papers 21).

[16]  A handwritten letter from Amberley House, Kidlington, Oxfordshire, 10 April 1938 (Archiwum Nauki pan i pau, Kraków, K-III-155).

[17] Lutosawski, The Knowledge of Reality (1930), pp. 189–190.

[18]  These chapters are “The Scientific Theory of Matter” and “The Matter of Art, Business, Training and Sexual Life, Ritual, National Life and Theory of Matter”, The Knowledge of Reality (1930), pp. 16–97.

[19] The World of Souls was Lutosławski’s first book published by Allen & Unwin (1924). In 1928 they published his Pre-existence and Reincarnation.

[20] In the earlier draft “opinion” appears instead of “party” and this sentence is supplemented with the following: “just as Plato wrote more about Protagoras than about Pythagoras”.

[21]  Lutosławski refers here to Russell’s words from the chapter “The Philosophy of Logical Analysis”:


    “Philosophers, from Plato to William James, have allowed their opinions as to the constitution of the universe to be influenced by the desire for edification: knowing, as they supposed, what beliefs would make men virtuous, they have invented arguments, often very sophistical, to prove that these beliefs are true. For my part I reprobate this kind of bias, both on moral and on intellectual grounds. Morally, a philosopher who uses his professional competence for anything except a disinterested search for truth is guilty of a kind of treachery. And when he assumes, in advance of inquiry, that certain beliefs, whether true or false, are such as to promote good behaviour, he is so limiting the scope of philosophical speculation as to make philosophy trivial; the true philosopher is prepared to examine all preconceptions.”

(HWP2, p. 863)

[22] Lutosławski quoted here the initial words from the final paragraph of HWP, where he believed he had found Russell’s philosophical credo: “In the welter of conflicting fanaticisms, one of the few unifying forces is scientific truthfulness, by which I mean the habit of basing our beliefs upon observations and inferences as impersonal, and as much divested of local and temperamental bias, as is possible for human beings. To have insisted upon the introduction of this virtue into philosophy, and to have invented a powerful method by which it can be rendered fruitful, are the chief merits of the philosophical school of which I am a member” (HWP2, p. 864).

[23]  A handwritten letter from Kraków, 9 V 1948 (Archiwum Nauki pan i pau, Kraków, K-III-155). Dubious or unclear words were supplemented from the earlier draft. The earlier draft bears no date, is longer and has some deletions and corrections that were implemented in the later version. Some insignificant parts of non-deleted text from the earlier draft were transferred by the author (Mróz) to the final version.

[24] A handwritten letter from 27 Dorset House, Gloucester Place, N.W.1, London, 19.5.48 (Russell Archives, McMaster University, ra3 70, box 6.42).

[25]  Unwin continued: “I hope you have a pleasant time in Sweden. / There is no longer any shortage of the history of western philosophy. We have now supplied all orders and have a thousand copies or so in hand. We are nevertheless reprinting it to avoid risk of running out of stock of it again. / Yours sincerely,”. A typewritten letter from of 24 May 1948 (Russell Archives, ra3 70, box 6.45).