How deep is the surface?

“The truth is always on the surface”
says Prof. Lewinsky (Christopher Janczar) in
“Phenomenology of Truth”.
Written/directed by Pawel Kuczynski

Q&A. PK and prof. Agnieszka Kozyra, the moderator.
Behind - the final frame of the film.

Yesterday prof. Lewinsky via his screen appearance met with a group of academicians and students during the Japan Days at Warsaw University. The ensuing discussion posed a question about the connections between the phenomenology of truth and the Kyoto school of philosophy.

According to prof. Kozyra the Kyoto school stresses the affirmation of our sensual experience of reality. Such experience should not be thrown away even when we attain enlightenment. The newly acquired understanding does not invalidate the sensual knowledge nor does it make it something of a lesser value or transitory. In Buddhism there is no escape from the real world and there is no need for such escape. Each moment even the most ordinary is as important as the eternity, or simply is the eternity. Such mind frame was for example behind the evolution of the tea ceremony - which developed from ordinary to celebratory.

If so, a possible similarity between the Kyoto thinkers and Lewinsky is most likely only a skin deep. Or “only on the surface” if one could quip about the Lewinsky’s pet intellectual project. Would the sophistication of the Kyoto school be something that Lewinsky could endorse? Not really, I would venture to say.

Lewinsky is much simpler in his approach. The Kyoto sages cherish the reality of the now because of its context in the much greater whole. For them the big endorses the small. “Each moment is the eternity” validates one by the other. For Lewinsky such distinction would be another philosophical disgrace. He avoids metaphysical or transcendental undertones of any kind. There is only the surface.

In a synchronistic follow up, the next evening I watched “A room and a half’, an absolutely superb creative biography/fantasy of Joseph Brodsky. Afterwards, I found an interview with Brodsky conducted by Nick Watson and placed in the archives of The Argotist magazine. Here is a quote:

“Nick Watson: "Appearances are all there is" (Less Than One). David Hockney has said "all art is surface" and that surface is "the first reality". Are you talking about the same thing and what depths are negated by privileging surface?

Joseph Brodsky: There are no depths. Appearance is the summary of phenomena.”

This is the gist of Lewinsky’s thought! I wish him and Brodsky could get a chance to hang out together. In Kyoto perhaps. Because the question of the nature of surface is still unanswered.


  1. Fortunately, in your movies, unlike in our flawed reality, Lewiński and Brodski can meet, drink together, quarrel all they please, and maybe even arrive at some mutual understanding :)

  2. Paweł, very engaging article and inquisitive look at the question of surface…

    I wouldn’t like to challenge prof. Lewinsky’s approach, however, I must confess (maybe fortunately) I do not concur with him. I strongly believe, probably more intuitively than scientifically, there actually IS a depth and appearances are not “all there is”. What there really seems to be in fact is the subconscious human being’s fear, not necessarily of the unknown itself , but of the more - so to say - ‘profound unknown’. There is much more than the appearances themselves, yet for some reason we dreadfully escape from diving down the surface…

    I enjoyed thinking about this fragment of your post: “In Buddhism there is no escape from the real world and there is no need for such escape. Each moment even the most ordinary is as important as the eternity, or simply is the eternity.” - Apparently Kyoto school’s approach seems to be more down to earth.:-)
    surface dive thiNker