BIEGAŃSKI Władysław—medical doctor, methodologist and historian of medicine, philosopher and social worker, b. April 28, 1857 in Grabów, d. January 29, 1917 in Częstochowa.
He studied medicine (1875–1800) in Warsaw. He practiced medicine in Russia (1881–1882), and in 1882 and 1883 he continued his studies in Berlin and Prague. After returning to Poland he settled in Częstochowa where he practiced medicine for more than thirty years, at the same time developing his scientific and scholarly work. He was the cofounder of the Benefaction Society for Christians (1899), and the Częstochowa Physicians’ Society (1901).
Biegański’s work includes more than 200 publications. He was the author of many treatises in the medical sciences: internal medicine, neurology, the theory and history of medicine, hygiene, and social medicine. He also wrote many treatises in the field of philosophy, concerning methodology, logic, epistemology, and ethics. His works include Logika medycyny, czyli zasady ogólnej metodologii nauk lekarskich [Logic of medicine, or principle of the general methodology of the medical sciences] (Wwa 1894, ed. 2 under the title Logika medycyny, czyli krytyka poznania lekarskiego [Logic of medicine, or a critique of medical cognition], Wa 1908); Myśli i aforyzmy o etyce lekarskiej [Thoughts and aphorisms about medical ethics] (Wwa 1899, 19574); Neo-teleologia [Neo-teleology] (Wwa 1910); Diagnostyka różniczkowa chorób wewnętrznych [Differential diagnostics of internal illnesses] (Wwa 1891); Zasady logiki ogólnej [Principles of general logic] (Wwa 1903); Podręcznik logiki i metodologii ogólnej dla szkół średnich i samouków [Manual of logic and general methodology for middle schools and the self-taught] (Wwa 1907, 19205); Teoria logiki [Theory of logic] (Wwa 1912); Wnioskowanie z analogii [Inference by analogy] (Lw 1909); Czwarta postać wnioskowania przez analogię [Fourth form of inference by analogy] (Sprawozdania Warszawskiego Towarzystwa Naukowego [Reports of the Warsaw Scientific Society] (1913), 25–37); Traktat o poznaniu i prawdzie [Treatise on cognition and truth] (Wwa 1910); Teoria poznania ze stanowiska celowości [Theory of cognition from the position of teleology] (Wwa 1915); Prewidyzm i pragmatyzm [Previsionism and pragmatism] (PF 13 (1910), 319–324); Etyka ogólna (Wwa 1918), Lw 19222).
Biegański’s most important works are those in the field of methodology. In those works he presented the first systematic approach to the general theory of diagnosis adapted to the classifications that occur in the empirical sciences.
Biegański also considered the question of scientific observation. He presented a typology of errors in observation and explained them psychologically and methodologically. He worked on a theory of experiments, refined its general principles, and thoroughly analyzed in detail the methods of physiological experimentation (Logika medycyny [Logic of medicine]).
In many works he studied the question of how the principle of teleology is applied to explain biological phenomena, e.g., auto-regulation or the adaptation of organisms. He proposed using a research method analogous to Mills’ canon of one difference in the study of teleological connections (Metodyka teleologii [Methodology of teleology]). At the same time he rejected metaphysical conceptions of teleology that presupposed the action of supernatural powers in nature.
Biegański was also interested in the theory of induction. He regarded inductive reasoning as a kind of inference. He analyzed different types of inductive reasoning, their heuristic value, and their value in rational justification. He defended the view that the canons of induction have great importance in justifying hypotheses. At the same time he was opposed to inversion theory, according to which the comparisons of the conclusions that follow from a hypothetesis with the data of experience are alone sufficient for the verification of the hypothesis. He also considered questions concerning heuristic reasonings in science; he regarded inference by analogy as the most important among them. He distinguished four forms of this inference (Wnioskowanie z analogii [Inference by analogy]).
Biegański’s works in the methodology of biology and medicine were well-known and esteemed in European literature.
His studies in general logic were initiated by a cycle of articles published (beginning in 1897) in the “Przegląd Filozoficzny” [Philosophical Review] and they were crowned by the book Teoria logiki [Theory of Logic]. Initially Biegański took a psychologistic position and thought that logic is based on the findings of psychology, although it is a normative and not a descriptive science (Zasady logi ogólnej [Principles of general logic]). In the second phase he recognized that logic was distinct and separate from psychology. He was one of the first authors in Poland to introduce an exposition of mathematical logic (Boolean algebra) (Teoria logiki [Theory of logic]).
In the theory of cognition and the theory of science he proclaimed a position he called previsionism that developed from A. Comte’s motto—“savoir c’est prévoir” (to know is to foresee): the chief task of science is to foresee phenomena (Traktat o poznaniu i prawdzie [Treatise on cognition and truth]; Teoria poznania ze stanowiska zasady celowości [Theory of cognition from the position of the principle of finality]. Biegański extended the term “prevision” (or “foresight”) and thought that cognition consists in the prevision of events, their causes, effects, and properties. He stated that the end of cognition is not to reproduce reality, but to achieve the biological orientation in the milieu that is right for satisfying biological needs. Truth is a particular emotional reaction of consciousness, which accepts or rejects particular judgments. The condition of truth is the agreement of thought with the cognized object, while the criterium of truth is the agreement of thought with its principles. “Intellectual inspection” allows one to assert this agreement. The criteria for this agreement are necessity and evidence. Biegański accepted the existence of the following ultimate principles of cognition: actual experience, prior experience, mental constructions and (“categories”). Mental constructions are an idealization of experience, and at the same time they are the necessary conditions for cognition.
Biegański discussed the topic of ethics in his collection Myśli i aforyzmy o etyce lekarskiej [Thought and aphorisms of medical ethics], the treatise Kilka uwag w sprawie etyki zawodowej lekarskiej [A few remarks in the matter of professional medical ethics], and in the book (published posthumously) Etyka ogólna [General ethics]. Biegański’s first work on ethics appeared in a period of turbulent discussions among physicians on the deontology of their profession provoked by disappointment with the ideals of positivism. Biegański thought that the development of education had not contributed to positive changes in people’s attitudes, but on the contrary had led to a cult of power that was, he thought, the direct result of a cult of knowledge, a completely unrestrained struggle for existence. This struggle for existence was closely followed by the disappearance of noble ideals and the development of selfish desires, restrained only by fear of legal punishments (Myśli i aforyzmy [Thoughts and aphorisms]).
In the treatise Kilka uwag w sprawie tyki zawodowej lekarskiej [A few remarks in the matter of professional medical ethics], Biegański sketched the elements of medical ethics and provided an outline of his own general ethics. He regarded ethics as the science about the principles and obligations by which people should guide themselves in their conduct. He also wrote of the need to guide oneself in life by one leading principle and one end to which other lower ends should be subordinated, which would lead to a harmonious life. Likewise in the life of a physician one end should dominate, namely to bring help to the sick. The particular principles of professional medical ethics follow from this. Biegański was precise in his treatment of the physician’s ethical obligations and restored the role of ideals in the formation of their social attitudes. He discussed these problems in Etyka ogólna [General ethics] where he attempted to present a broad conception of normative ethics, or philosophical ethics, which he regarded as a deductive science that derives particular ends and principles from the general principles of the highest end. He thought that ethics cannot be derived from ethology, but he did not deny the value of ethology since it shows the genesis, change, and development of moral convictions. He pointed to the significance of psychology, which explains fundamental ethical concepts such as “act”, ”motive for acting”, and “end”. He also considered social emotions: one of the most important social emotions is sympathy, which constitutes the foundation for ethical conduct. He was a vocal supporter of a perfectionistic ethics that emphasized the significance of ideals for the perfection of man’s conduct and character. At the same time it was an evolutionistic ethics, since it assumed that ethical ideals are perfected according to the measure of the development of societies and individuals. It was an eudaimonistic ethics that connected the attainment of personal happiness with the striving for universal happiness. He understood happiness as the fullest possible realization of ends and intentions. Happiness is only the realization of one’s own ends, which contribute to the realization of other people’s ends and are in agreement with their happiness. For happiness to become the highest end of conduct, it must meet two conditions: durability and universality. The foundation of the durability of happiness is a strong character that enables one to master one’s drives, and freedom of action, namely man’s independence. For his character to be strong, a man must possess the ability to master himself. The conditions for the durability of happiness are insufficient, since the ideal of strong character and the ideal of freedom are not the only conditions of morality. The ideal of morality also creates the ideal of the moral good of all people: the individual’s conduct contributes to the realization of the good by other people. In the realization of this good an innate feeling of sympathy is indispensable and this feeling should be made stronger in the striving for general human good will. According to Biegański, the attitudes of individuals are influenced by norms received from society, especially legal norms, and so ethical evaluations are a result of the confrontation of a man’s personal ends with social life.
M. Borowski, Władysław B. “Traktat o poznaniu” [Władysław Biegański. “Treatise on cognition”], PF 13 (1910), 216–221; K. Okuszko, Filozoficzna działalność Władysława B. [Władysław Biegański’s philosophical work], Cz 1917; D. Gromska, Recenzja “Podręcznika logiki ogólnej dla szkół średnich i samouków” [Review of “Manual of general logic for middle schools and the self-taught], RuF 5 (1920), 151–161; J. Bednarski, W sprawie “Podręcznika logiki ogólnej” Władysława B. [In the matter of Władysław Biegański’s “Manual of General Logic”], RuF 6 (1921), 41–43; M. Biegańska, Władysław B. ėycie ipraca [Władysław Biegański. Life and work], Wwa 1930; T. Bilikiewicz, Władysław B. [1857–1917), Polski Tygodnik Lekarski [Polish medical weekly] 41–42 (1946), (passim); idem, B. jako filozof [Biegański as philosopher], Archiwum Historii Medycyny 20 (1957) n. 3, 374–355; S. Konopka, Spuścizna po Władysławie B. [The inheritance from Władysław Biegański], ibid. 20 (1957) n. 3, 357–363; J. Mikolajtis, “Myśli i aforyzmy” B. na świetle rozważań literackich [Biegański’s “Thoughts and aphorisms” in light of literary considerations], ibid. 20 (1957) n. 3, 365–377; B. Skarżyński, Władysław B. jako człowiek i lekarz, ibid 20 (1957) n. 3, 321–326; Krąpiec Dz [Works] I 245; S. Ziemski, Poglądy metodologiczne Władysława B. [Władysław Biegański’s methodological views], ibid 28 (1965) n. 3, 175–208; idem, Rozwój twórczości metodologicznej Władysława B. [Development of Władysław Biegański’s methodological creativity], Studia i Materiały z Dziejów Nauki Polskiej [Studies and materials from the history of Polish science], seria E (1968) n. 3, 105–115; A. Trochimak, J. Trochimak, życie i praca Władysława B. w Rosji [Władysław Biegański’s life and work in Russia], Wiadomości Lekarskie [Medical news] 30 (1977), 19; S. Gawrychowski, Władysław Biegański—lekarz i filozof [Władysław Biegański—physician and philosopher], Wr 1980.