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DIMITAR MIHALCHEV ~ PHILOSOPHER, SOCIOLOGIST AND PUBLICIST

Authors: Kosta Andreev and Vasil Subashki

 

Since Prof. Dimitar Mihalchev /1880-1967/ is a leading philosopher from the bulgarian scientific academia, subsequently we have tried to adopt an approach both flexible and not consecrating the ideals of the title author. At the beginning of writing for this evaluation, we encountered numerous — i.e., understand here from a logical point of view — difficulties that hampered our initial enthusiasm and made our thought blundering between the difficult material of philosophy itself counterfeited by the social realities in which the author worked and lived, which imminently reflected on the quality and contents of his writings. So, from an arbitrary position it is understandable why he was called "Kant on the Balkans".

On the other hand, his rich biographical stamina made him an exponent for at least three generations of philosophical thinkers in Bulgaria and this is why his personality unifies the whole history of bulgarian philosophy from the first half of the 20th century, per se. Finally, from his prolific literature heritage we were compelled to select only 2-3 more important books of critique and selected works that aimed to give a true picture of the topic at hand.

This book from reviewers K. Andreev and V. Subashki, both members from the Institute of Philosophy at the Bulgarian Academy of Sciences /BAS/, has remained the best work written about the titular for a long time. Despite the solitude of the communist era and the difficulties surrounding the publishing of the monograph itself, we present here a book from far gone year 1975 which has the merits and qualifications of real science.

Given the difficulties we enumerated in the prologue, we have decided to make this further presentation in the form of a citation index with various comments that reflect our personal view and have some bearing to the issues of the debacle. A fuller account with biography of Prof. D. Mihalchev is intended to be written in some other issues of our bulletin.

As we have already mentioned, Prof. D. Mihalchev is a unifying figure in bulgarian philosophy or like someone used to say he always stood "larger that life". He has also been a controversial one and this is evident from his often changing political affiliations. Whatever, we have tried to distinguish for the sake of this short narrative three phases in the development of his scientific ideas which are altogether pegged to his "curriculum vitae" agenda. Here is an attempt for such a chronological approach.

Part 1, from 1880 to 1920: This period is characterized as D. Mihalchev's early revisionism. Besides his childhood and adolescence, which he spent in hometown Lozengrad at the Odrin vilayet of the European part of Turkey — subsequently, we see him enrolled as student in Sofia University /1901-1905/. There is his first attempts as a publicist and translator, within the realms of the Literary Circle "Misal" with editor-in-chief Dr. K. Krustev. In the bulletin of this early modernist society in Bulgaria, at length, D. Mihalchev appears with several articles that criticize the breach between the bulgarian socialists. Without taking pros and cons, the young student steps forward as an opponent of the Marxist theory of ideology from the positions of neo-Kantianism and yet as an adherent of the ideas of historical materialism.

At that time the theme for unity vs. liquidation of the proletarian movement has been debated on the international level. Many eminent people and political events were mixed together, evidently as a reflection for the tempestuous 19th century and which was called by some an "Age of Revolutions". These refers mainly to the bourgeois revolutions in France and Germany, which in their essence were continuous or pending revolutions in the industrialization era — subsequently, were depicted marvelously by the political economists K. Marx, F. Engels, etc. and helped them coin their ideological theory for masses and revolutionary process. Among their adherents were the bulgarian socialists, who as early as year 1883 have forged a socialist movement in Bulgaria with a face value and main exponents being Dimitar Blagoev-Dyado, Yanko Sakuzov, etc. Further in year 1891 was formed the first Socialist Party in the country and this is starting point for the history of hundred-years and more evolution of socialist thought in Bulgaria. However, we are not in a position to discuss the story of socialism and neither this was the aim of the young philosopher-student D. Mihalchev. In fact, the latter used socialism as a case to develop his position for philosophy as a fundamental science. His critiques, regrettably, were misapprehended by his political enemies — i.e., understand here opponents within the scientific trivia. He received severe counterfeit from both the left and the right, which created him an image of a "Marxist" for some and a "Neo-Kantian" for others.

With several intermissions, D. Mihalchev spent the next five years in a specialization abroad /1905-1910/. These are the formative years for the future professor in theoretical philosophy and a period of intense scientific and publication activity, mainly in German language. His stay was confined mainly to the university towns of Greifswald, Freiburg, etc., while being an adjunct professor with such authoritative names in German Philosophy as Johannes Rehmke, Wilhelm Schuppes and others. A wealth of written material is left from this period on the titular author for this review, however, we wish to mark down his main work — cf., "Philosophische Studien: Beitrage zur Kritik des Modernen Psychologismus. Von Dmitri Michaltschew. Mit einem Vorwort von Johannes Rehme. Leipzig: Wilhelm Engelmann, 1909, pp. 575".

As a result, we see Dimitar Mihalchev as an appointee in Systematic Philosophy at the Sofia University /1910/. Five years later, D. Mihalchev gets a habilitation with another major work in Bulgarian language — cf., "Form and Relation: Contribution to the Theory of Cognition. Universitetska Biblioteka № 4, 1914, pp. 760". From year 1920, Prof. D. Mihalchev becomes a titular and head of the Department of Philosophy, Sofia University and from then on retains his position until 1946 when the ensuing socialist revolution in Bulgaria changes his fortune, ditto.

***

 


ADDENDUM № 1: There is a short note excerpted from the resume of the "History of Philosophical Thought in Bulgaria" — notably, a compendium of authoritative value and written in 4 /four/ volumes by the editors of BAS;

"In the 1920s and 1930s the philosophical idealistic trends, fashionable in Europe, were advocated in Bulgaria: Bergsonism, Freudism, pragmatism and so on, but Rehmkeism had the greatest influence. Its spread in Bulgaria and its struggle against dialectical materialism are connected with the name of Dimitar Mihalchev (1880-1967). Already before the First World War he began his activity as an opponent of the Marxist theory of cognition from the positions of neo-Kantianism, and after that he was formed as the most eminent adherent and advocate of the Rehmkean philosophy. In his principal works Form and Relation /editions from 1914, 1932/ and Philosophy as a Science /editions from 1933, 1946/ he upheld the thesis of the existence of a third line in philosophy. Rejecting the theory of reflection, Mihalchev considers that cognition is a direct possession of the given. The subject of philosophy is not an objective reality, but what is directly given by consciousness. Mihalchev considers philosophy as a fundamental science. As such, by means of his works and through the periodical Philosophical Review /i.e., Filosofski Pregled, transliteration is from bulgarian/ which he edited, Mihalchev had a great influence on the intelligentsia in Bulgaria. Marxist thought had as its principal task the struggle against the philosophy of Rehmkeism. The influence of Rehmkeism was also explained by the fact that in the sphere of politics Mihalchev had taken up democratic positions, criticized racism, social Darwinism and came out in defense of the Soviet Union ..."

 

ADDENDUM № 2: We append here a review from Cambridge philosopher G. E. Moore on Dimitar Mihalchev's book "Philosophische Studien: Beitrage zur Kritik des Modernen Psychologismus; mit einem Vorwort von Johannes Rehme. Leipzig: Wilhelm Engelmann, 1909" — viz., which appeared in journal "Mind" from year 1911;

G. E. Moore and D. Michaltschew: Data of Human Knowledge

One of the most obscure papers of G. E. Moore is his review of D. Michaltschew, Philosophische Studien, published in the January issue of Mind, 1911. The objective of the present essay is to fill this gap in Moore studies. For this purpose, we are first going to locate this review of Moore’s on the map of his philosophical development.

After he graduated the University of Cambridge (England) in 1896, Moore won a six-years Fellowship at Trinity College there (1898-1904). The years from 1904 till 1908 he spent at Edinburgh, Scotland. In 1908 he came up to Richmond, Surrey (near London), where he stayed until October 1911, when he was elected a University Lecturer in Moral Science in Cambridge. In respect of the history of his writings of the same period, the following is to be noted. In 1903 Moore’s magnum opus, Principia Ethica, was brought out. Despite the fact that it won a wide public recognition (among its admirers were such top intellectuals of the time like J. M. Keynes, E. M. Forster and Virginia Woolf), Moore was not pleased with it. The reason for this is to be found in the fact that in the same year his closest philosophical friend-and rival Bertrand Russell published the famous "Principles of Mathematics", and two years later the paper "On Denoting" (1905), which later was called the ‘paradigm of analytic philosophy’. These two publications convinced Moore that he must try with a new synthesis in philosophy.

Moore made this in a course of twenty lectures ‘On Metaphysics’, delivered at the Morley College, London, in the autumn of 1910 and in the winter of 1911. The lectures were written out in a completely finished form, and merely read to the audience, so that more than forty years later they were published without changes as "Some Main Problems of Philosophy" (1953). In short, Moore saw the task of these lectures as to metaphysically assimilate the new achievements of Russell from 1903-5 in philosophical logic. (For example, he used in them the term sense-data as an ontological counterpart to the introduced in ‘On Denoting’ term "knowledge by acquaintance". This was a first such an attempt, later followed by Russell himself starting with "Problems of Philosophy" (1912), and finishing with the lectures ‘Philosophy of Logical Atomism’ (1917-18), as well by Wittgenstein in his "Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus" (1921).

All these biographic facts of Moore’s can help by answering the question why did he wrote the Michaltschew review at all. Our tentative answer is: He wrote it in preparation for his ‘On Metaphysics’ lectures of 1910-11. The published in January 1911 review was apparently written in the Summer of 19102 — i.e. when the composing of the lectures run at full speed.

Six months earlier, two other papers were written in these preparations as well; they shed additional light on Moore’s motives for writing the Michaltschew review. The papers in question are ‘Subject-Matter of Psychology’, read at the Aristotelian Society in London on 6 December 1909, and another review, of August Denken, published in the July issue of Mind, 1910. The most interesting point in this two papers, apparently written one after another in November 1909 - February 1910, is that in them Moore introduced the term sense-data.

It is true that the term sense-data was in use in philosophy yet before December 1909. As we have recently shown, the term was introduced in 1882 by Josiah Royce. In the early 1890s it was widely used by William James. In 1896-8 B. Russell incidentally spoke of sense-data too; but in the next thirteen years he apparently forgot this. To be sure, between 1898 and 1911 he didn’t use the term at all. This explains why he was thus impressed by Moore’s innovation. So in the ‘Preface’ to "Problems of Philosophy" he expressly acknowledges that he follows Moore’s lecture from 1910-11 on the concept of sense-data. Russell himself renewed the use of the term sense-data in the lecture ‘Knowledge by Acquaintance and Knowledge by Description’, first delivered in Oxford on 4 March 1911.

 

Who on earth was Dimitri Michaltschew?

As we already have noted, the new attention to the object had as its sources Russell’s Theory of Descriptions, which introduced the concept of  ‘knowledge by acquaintance’. In respect of this objectivism, Moore soon found a book of another philosopher in Germany of the time, the anti-psychologism of which has gone even beyond that of Husserl-Messer: — the book of Dimitri Michaltschew, "Philosophische Studien: Beitrage zur Kritik des modernen Psychologismus", which was reviewed by Moore some six months later.

Dimitri Michaltschew managed to write this voluminous contribution to the criticism of psychologism in philosophy during his four years stay in Greifswald with the German objectivist Johannes Rehmke. The special importance of his book is connected with the fact that it appeared before the objectivist manifesto of his teacher — Rehmke’s "Philosophie als Grundwissenschaft" was published an year later in 1910. In his Preface to Michaltschew’s book, Rehmke himself had called it "filius ante patrem", and in the same time pronounced that it promulgates an absolutely new movement in philosophy that advances a most radical form of anti-psychologism. Moore, who fought against psychologism in philosophy for years was, of course, intrigued. This provides a specific explanation of why he wrote the Michaltschew review.

A central role in Michaltschew’s book plays the concept of ‘given’— Gegebene, in German, or Datum, in Latin — a concept to which he attaches an ‘extreme importance’. According to this author, ‘das Gegebensein ist noch keine Bestimmung’; it is ‘die unbestimmte Mannigfaltigkeit’. It is defined as a ‘pure content’. We cannot ask anything about that ‘given’. Now the same characteristic also have Moore’s indefinables from 1903. Such are the colours, truth/falsehood, size, shape, existence, movement, relations, situation, etc. The novelty by Moore-Russell after December 1909 was that they saw the indefinables that we know through senses as objects, or sense-data, which are different from the material objects; the first are related to the second.

Exactly the same was assumed by Michaltschew. According to him, the given is ‘ganz gleich, ob das Gegebene Wirkliches oder Nichtwirkliches, eine Phantasie oder ein Traum, Psychisches oder Physisches, ein Stein oder ein Gefehl, Einziges oder Ailgemeines’. Similarly to Michaltschew, Moore-Russell assumed that the perceptions when dreaming, day-dreaming, etc. are objective sense-data. What makes the sense-data of material objects different from sense-data of dreams is the character of their relation to one another.

Here is Moore’s definition of sense-data from 6 December 1909:

"By sense-data I understand a class of entities of which we are very often directly conscious, and with many of which we are extremely familiar. They include the colours, of all sorts of different shades, which I actually see when I look about me; the sounds which I actually hear; the peculiar sort of entity of which I am directly conscious when I feel the pain of a toothache, and which I call ‘the pain’; and many others which I need not enumerate. But I wish also to include among them those entities called ‘images’, of which I am directly conscious when I dream and often also when awake".

Moore-Russell also accept that among sense-data are the universals. In this assumption they are with Michaltschew again. The only difference between Michaltschew and Moore-Russell are the concepts, signified by denoting phrases. Such are the numbers, the infinite number including, the abstract objects, etc. According to Moore-Russell, they are ‘incomplete symbols’ that are to be analyzed to their constituents ‘given’ — the data. According to Rehmke-Michaltschew, they are given as well. Apparently, these two authors have never tried to solve the problem how we cognize numbers and what is their meaning.

 

G. E. Moore and D. Michaltschew: Afterwards

Moore’s review of Michaltschew was a final point in his philosophical development in two respects: — (i) Formally, it was the last extensive review, out of some dozen, that Moore wrote in his lifetime. Review-writing was a genre he liked in the years of his philosophical apprenticeship. After he delivered his ‘On Metaphysics’ lectures in 1910-11, he got convinced that his metaphysics is accomplished in a final shape. In consequence, Moore stopped to be interested in philosophy produced outside Cambridge; (ii) It was a last example of a method that he followed in the time that we have called elsewhere ‘analytic hermeneutics’. Moore applied this method for the first time in ‘In What Sense, If Any, Do Past and Future Exist?’ (1897) and developed it further in ‘Refutation of Idealism’ (1903); it bore its ripest fruits in the papers ‘Professor James' Pragmatism’ (1908), and ‘Hume's Philosophy’ (1909). In all these works Moore’s objective was to show that the philosopher under scrutiny uses ideas (concepts, theories) in a sense that is significantly different from the sense in which he thinks (and beliefs) that he uses them.

The book of Michaltschew, so renders Moore, is pre-analytical in this sense. It discusses too many notions and problems, without first to make them clear. Thus the meaning of the concept ‘given’ is not explained at all in spite of the pronounced accent that the author puts on it. Besides, Michaltschew criticizes many philosophical theories en bloc, without to make a difference between them: — Rickert’s ‘teleological criticism’, Mach’s ‘emprio-criticism’, Meinong’s theory of objects, Husserl’s phenomenology, etc. For him, all of them are guilty of psychologism: they all accept that what is given cannot subsist independently of consciousness (Bewultsein).

According to Moore’s conceptual scheme of 1909-11, we can discern between a subject, a cognitive relation, and an object. There are many kinds of cognitive relations, or mental acts: sense-perception (seeing, hearing, feeling, smelling), remembering, dreaming, imagining, thinking, observing. Besides mental acts, there are also other ways of knowing that things exist: memory, the already cited direct knowing of material objects, etc.

There was a most important difference between Moore-Russell and the three coryphaei of the German-speaking philosophy about 1900 — Brentano, Frege, and Husserl. Whereas the former accepted the scheme subject-act-object, the scheme of the latter was subject-act-content-object. The Cambridge realists rejected the content and so embraced the radical presentationism. In this respect they were closer to Rehmke-Michaltschew, than to Brentano-Frege-Husserl. This also makes the difference between Moore and Husserl: whereas the latter believes that two acts having the same object can differ because of their different Auffassungssinn (interpretative sense), ‘according to Moore the so-called difference in content of two acts with the same primary objects is ‘in reality’ the difference between their secondary objects. And this Husserl would not accept.

The close relatedness of Michaltschew’s position to that of Moore-Russell is quite obvious. As a matter of fact, in his discussion with Frege from 1904, Russell was eager to point out, as if in agreement with Greifswald objectivists, the following:

"I believe that in spite of all its snowfields Mont Blanc itself is a component part of what is actually asserted in the proposition ‘Mont Blanc is more than 4000 meters high’. We do not assert the thought, for this is a private psychological matter: we assert the object of the thought".

This position, called by some philosophers ‘identity theory of truth’, coheres quite well with Michaltschew’s theory of truth. In contrast to Michaltschew, however, Russell also assumed that true propositions refer to denoting phrases, such like ‘The author of Waverley’, or ‘The infinite number’. The words in such phrases have meaning in virtue of the logical form of the phrases, not in isolation. Exactly this new conception (the context principle) introduced a new argument against psychologism in philosophy that was apparently unknown to Michaltschew, and which we already have termed ‘argument from philosophy of language’, assumed with the propositional turn. According to it, psychologism in philosophy is a ‘naturalistic fallacy’, as long as it does not start its analysis from the logical forms.

 

ADDENDUM № 3: “What is a Nation?” — Controversy Among Bulgarian Scholars about “Race” and “Racism”

On the Eve of the Second World War, within the history of Bulgarian science physical anthropology still features as a discipline which was not tainted by the temptations of Social Darwinism, eugenics and racism. This paper will challenge such a description discussing, how Western schools of anthropology influenced Bulgarian anthropologists, and examining the so-called argument about racism on the eve of the Second World War. At the time blood group analysis, in addition to anthropometrics, became a new method of anthropology. Adherents of a closer collaboration with the Third Reich used it to underline the non-Slavic origin of the Bulgarians; their rank and file even attacked a lecture of the biologist Metodi Popov in 1938 on the "Racial Position of the Bulgarians among the European Nations". On this occasion Popov — due to his anthropological findings — wanted to stress the ethnical relationship of the Bulgarians with other Slavic nations and to repudiate the idea that races had higher or lower value. The paper will attempt to reconstruct the following argument between the biologist Stefan Konsulov (who openly defended racism), the philosopher Dimitar Michalchev (who rejected the concept of race as a whole), and Metodi Popov (who came in-between). In the aftermath of Second World War Mihalchev was silenced by Bulgaria's pro-Communist regime, Popov had to humble down as Academician at BAS, and Konsulov was imprisoned for lifetime.

 

Picture 1: Sample illustration on the text above.

(i). Prof. Dimitar Mihalchev (1880-1967) — holding the Chair of Systematic Philosophy, Sofia University, and editor-in-chief of journal "Philosophical Review" /in Bulgarian/.

 

 

Copyright © 2006, 2010 by the author.