Leszek Kołakowski (1927-2009): Remembrances and some comments

Jerzy Szacki

Abstract


Author tells the story of his close and very long-lasting acquaintance with Leszek Kołakowski as well as commentates on his intellectual biography and achievements as political and literary essayist, philosopher, historian of ideas, and public figure. In particular he describes in details the first half of Kołakowski’s life, namely the period when he made his long journey from being communist in his student years to becoming as a young scholar the leading figure of Marxist revisionism in the late fifties and after a time a principled critic of Marxism itself and a fervent anti-communist. In many respects Kołakowski’s itinerary was not exceptional but it had at least two noteworthy characteristics. First, in opposition to quite a few other cases his way away from communism turned out to be scholarly fruitful as it resulted in an uniquely in-depth historical research covering the founders, the golden age and the breakdown of so called “scientific socialism” (his voluminous work Main Currents of Marxism remains one of the best and the most comprehensive monographs of the topic). Second, Kołakowski’s abandoning of his former Weltanschauung was followed by his discovery of religion as an extremely important part of human experience and sine qua non condition of the survival of civilization permanently menaced by barbarians. However it is to be doubt whether he may be considered as a convert or a religious thinker in the strict sense of the word since he believed in horrors of the absence of God rather than in the real presence of his in the world. As defender of transcendence and tradition Kołakowski certainly became a kind of catholic-Christian without denomination but as a critical philosopher remained at the same time highly sceptical about everything. Dreaming of solid fundamentals he was all his life an uncompromising enemy of any fundamentalism. Being nostalgic about the Absolute he was incurable antiabsolutist.


Keywords


censorship; Christianity without denomination; communism; contemporary culture; democratic opposition in Poland; heresy; history of ideas; the left; Marxism; philosophy; religion; revisionism; Roman-Catholic Church; skepticism

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