Exponent of intellect products of good taste. Obituary for Professor Jerzy Pelc (30.09.1924, Warsaw – 2.06.2017, therein)

Jacek Jadacki


Professor Jerzy Pelc was the creator and long-time manager of the Department of Logical Semiotics, University of Warsaw. He also founded the Polish Society of Semiotics. He published six own books, among others Studies in Functional Logical Semiotics of Natural Language (1971; in English); he edited also dozens of volumes of Semiotic Studies and Library of Semiotic Thought.  As Kotarbiński, his master, and Twardowski, the master of his master, Professor Pelc was a radical rationalist. This radical rationalism has linked him to atheism, anti-communism, a distance to politics, and a frown on the falsehood of public life. He was a great patriot – in his life and in his work. He considered himself a successor of the Lvov-Warsaw School tradition. In the field of metaphysics, Professor Pelc combined theoretical minimalism with anti-rationalist attitudes, including the postulate of precision and the requirement of criticism. The main field of his interest was logical – and broader: theoretical – semiotics. He advocated and largely developed the functional concept of signs. To traditional paradigms of research: historical, teleological, causal and prognostic ones – Professor Pelc has added a semiotic paradigm, determined by the question “What does it mean that p?”. Referring to the interdisciplinary fashion for interdisciplinary research, he conducted an analysis of the notion of interdisciplinarity. In ontology, he analyzed the notions of object and causality. In his approach, aesthetics was treated form a semiotic point of view: he sought mainly ways to logically rewrite its terminology. In particular, he reconstructed the main aesthetic notions: form and ideology (of literary works), theme, motive, metaphor and (literary) fiction – as well as semiotic notions essential to the description of literary arts, namely the notions of assertion and intensionality. In the field of ethics, Professor Pelc declared himself as an advocate of the ideal of trustworthy guardian, which he took over from his teacher, Kotarbiński. In metaethics, he analyzed the notions of norm, evaluation and humanity. A master of Polish: beautiful Polish – he was certainly a true humanist.


Jerzy Pelc; assertion; fiction; form; functional semiotics; ideology; logical semiotics; Lvov-Warsaw School; metaphor; motive

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