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Curriculum vitae

Mieczysław Albert Krąpiec was born on the 25th of May 1921 in Berezowica Mała in Podole. In 1939, after graduating from the Wincenty Pol gymnasium in Tarnopol he joined the Dominican Order in Kraków, where he studied philosophy and theology till 1946. Those studies concluded with a Ph.D. The promoter of his thesis was Jacek Woroniecki, a professor of the Catholic University from 1919 to 1929 and rector of the university. After receiving the sacrament of Holy Orders in 1945 Krąpiec started studying philosophy in the Faculty of Theology in the Catholic University of Lublin (KUL), crowning it with doctorate for the treatise De amore hypostatico in Sanctissima Trinitate secundum St. Thomam Aquinatem, written under the direction of professor Antoni Słomkowski, who was the rector of the university at the time. In 1957 Krąpiec presented his treatise under the title Existential foundation of the transcendental analogy of being to the Council of Faculty of Philosophy, on the basis of which he received the position of assistant professor. In 1963 he received the position of associate professor, and in 1968 he became a professor. In 1989 Pontifical Institute of Mediaeval Studies, which is part of University of Toronto, awarded Father Krąpiec the title of doctor honoris causa. The following year he was also awarded the title of doctor honoris causa by the Catholic University in Leuven (Louvain, Belgium). He was a member of the Polish Academy of Science (Warsaw), the Polish Academy of Arts and Sciences (Kraków), the Pontifical Academy of St. Thomas (Roma), and of the European Academy of Sciences and Art (Salzburg). In 1981 under the auspices of the Salsomaggiore International Prize he was decorated with the Golden Medal for the development of culture. The Belgian government honored him in 1977 with the class of Grand Officer in the Order of Leopold; the French government decorated him in 1984 with the Order of Academic Palms (Commander); the Polish government awarded him with the Order of Polonia Restituta (Commander's Cross with Star). The Consejo Cultural Mundial (UNESCO, Mexico) acclaimed him the Professor of the Year in 1988. The International Biographical Center honored him with the title Man of the Year (1991/92), as did the American Biographical Institute, Inc., Raleigh, NC.

Lecturer and Dean of the Faculty of Philosophy

Krąpiec began to lecture on metaphysics in 1951. In the beginning of the sixties American writer Jerome David Salinger, the author of famous novel Catcher in the Rye, expressed the view that seems still to be very timely: "In all this academic gaggle nobody has ever made a least mention that wisdom should be the purpose of cognition". If this is not true of the Catholic University of Lublin, most of the credit goes to to Krąpiec, who from the time he studied in the gymnasium school and later his studies with the Dominicans always combined ancient and mediaeval philosophy in his work, focusing on theory of being formulated by Aristotle and St. Thomas. During his research he came to regard them both as the co-authors of the classic metaphysics. He knew that classical metaphysics had unfortunately often been distorted by those who after, and it was considered to be two different theories by his contemporaries: a philosophical theory (Aristotle), and a theological or pseudo-philosophical theory (St. Thomas). Father Krąpiec worked to show that Thomas' theory was a creative continuation of Aristotle's, that Aquinas didn't depart from Aristotelian realism, but looked at Aristotle's theory of being through the prism of the phenomenon of human existence. This in turn cannot be done without reference to God, i.e. to Being as being in the absolute sense ("I am that I am"). John Paul II considered the emphasis on this point to be the special point of merit and a sort of trademark of the Lublin School of Philosophy: "We are the witnesses now of a significant return to metaphysics (philosophy of being) within integral anthropology [...] St. Thomas formulated this in terms of the philosophy of existence as the actus essendi. The philosophy of religion expresses this in categories of anthropological experience" (Crossing the Threshold of Hope, p. 46). The term "Lublin School of Philosophy" and the classic philosophy that the school cultivated and developed become popular and famous both in Poland and abroad thanks to publications of Krąpiec's papers. His literary output consists of over thirty books (many of which were translated into English, French or Russian) and around two hundred and fifty studies and articles, where in light of the basic view mentioned above he considered the following topics: cognition, love, freedom, evil, death, culture, religion, law, morality, politics, production, and last but not least, the question of the relation between language and reality, which was very much in vogue. He had something to say about almost every domain of human activity, and spoke out in order to restore the meaning they had in ancient and mediaeval thought, according to which the wisdom is the essential purpose of human cognition. The abandonment of classical philosophy seriously threatens to deplete the spiritual life of our civilization today. The objectives that Krąpiec set for himself in his by his work were shared by other professors: Stefan Swieżawski, Jerzy Kalinowski, Stanisław Kamiński, and last but not least Karol Wojtyła (since 1954), who were followed by the numerous disciples. They all declared themselves on the side of classic philosophy, because it did represent the most universal and perfectly balanced conception of reality. As such it was a good antidote to the one-sidedness of Marxist philosophy, which was trying its best to overwhelm all spiritual life in Poland. And it is still needed in the world tempest-tossed by various forms of radicalism. "It was bad thing", wrote Pope John Paul II, "that St. Thomas' way of thinking was in a certain way put aside after Vatican II, because he didn't actually cease to be the master of philosophical universalism" (Crossing the Threshold of Hope, p. 43). It is little wonder that the Marxists, starting from 1950, tried repeatedly to segregate this kind of philosophy, imprison it, as it were, under the name of "confessional philosophy", "Christian gnosis", or something of that sort. Father Krąpiec worked tirelessly to thwart those plans, as did his colleagues from the faculty of philosophy in KUL, by numerous publications on topics that could not be confined within the ghetto designed for them by the communist government. The importance and fame of the faculty was growing high as the publications grew in numbers, but most significant was the prestige of the person of Krąpiec himself in the eyes of other philosophers, including Marxists. And Krąpiec knew how to make use of his influence and popularity, which were the natural consequences of his personality. While he was the dean of the faculty (1958-1961 and 1969-1970) he had great success in getting the faculty out of isolation that had been imposed on it. That in turn was a factor that played a role in his election as rector of the university in 1970.

Rector of the longest term of office

As the rector he started his office by freeing the university from the tariffs unfairly imposed on it, intended as means to blackmail or humiliate a school that the government found unwelcome. He succeeded mostly because of his personal features mentioned above. When it was freed from threats of confiscation, the Catholic University of Lublin was able to make a complete overhaul of the entire building and even make some necessary additions. It became clear then that Krąpiec was not only an outstanding philosopher, theorist and teacher, but also a good and effective manager. During his numerous visits abroad (he went six times to USA and Canada) when he was invited to speak of classic philosophy, he didn't miss any opportunity to speak of the material condition of the university and its needs. Since 16th October, 1978 even more attention has been paid to his words, because on that day a professor of KUL of many years and metropolitan archbishop of Kraków, Karol Wojtyła, was chosen to be the Pope. The interest that Krąpiec had awakened about the university increased greatly. Every year hundreds of people from various academic centers, diplomats, journalists, Church notables were guests in Krąpiec's office in KUL. It's really hard to picture anybody more suitable than Father Krąpiec for such circumstances. He not only strengthened and confirmed the position of the university both in Poland and abroad, but he also did his best to enlarge buildings of the university and to restore its former academic structures.
Thanks to his efforts the Inter-Faculty Lexicograhical Institute for the Redaction of the Catholic Encyclopaedia was established in 1970; in 1972 the Institute for Priesthood and Polish Migration was established, renamed in 1984 to the Research Institute of Polonia and Priesthood of Polonia; in 1972 the Section of Romance Philology was reactivated, and in 1982 the Section of English Philology within the Faculty of Arts; in 1981 the Faculty of Social Sciences was reactivated with the sections of economics, psychology, pedagogy and sociology; in 1983 the Secation of Law was reactivated within the Faculty of Canon Law and Administration. This is how effective this period of thirteen years was when Krąpiec was the rector of the university, seizing every opportunity to develop KUL and to work on the university's prestige as a school that had real concern for the study of wisdom that could help students recognize the meaning of all that exists. Krąpiec dedicated several lectures and studies to consider the role and the meaning of the university, especially a Catholic university. Today, when we can hear so many bitter words about a crisis of higher education, the remarks and opinions of the rector of KUL of many years, his practical and theoretical remark, seem to be very interesting and they can be much helpful to make situation better. At least they were appreciated as such by International Federation of Catholic Universities. That is how to two Dominican friars who were philosophers, professors and rectors well known both in Poland and abroad (Jacek Woroniecki OP and Józef Maria Bocheński OP) was added a third one: Mieczysław Albert Krąpiec OP. They all were connecting nova cum vetera. Woroniecki and Bocheński (the latter even more) tended to consider vetera (here: St. Thomas Aquinas) in light of nova, i.e. of modern ethics (Woroniecki) or through the prism of modern logic and ontology (Bocheński), whereas Krąpiec was going from vetera, i.e. metaphysics of St. Thomas, up to nova in order to bring both (in methodologically correct manner) to their one common and true principium. His intention was not to prove that human mind couldn't really reach further than Thomas (as some too eager Thomists actually suggested) but to demonstrate that there was no need to modernize or adjust St. Thomas in any way, for the philosophy Thomas presented and passed on to future generations was timeless, supranational and classless, so it could by its nature filter philosophical currents of all kinds. Krąpiec's many disciples have taken up and continue to take this message found in his papers in lectures. Under his direction there were written around one hundred and fifty MA theses and over fifty Ph.D. treatises, some of which later led their authors to be qualified as assistant professors. There is no doubt at all that philosophy and the Catholic University of Lublin owe Him a great deal.

Ks. prof. Marian Kurdziałek


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