Leszek Kolakowski dies at age 81.
July 22, 2009 8:52 AM Subscribe
Leszek Kolakowski, a distinguished Polish philosopher who critiqued the Communist system and helped inspire the Solidarity movement, passed away last Friday in Oxford, UK.
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Kolakowski was born in Radom, Poland in 1927. Largely self-taught as a youngster, he received his doctorate from Warsaw University in 1953. In 1950, he came to reject Marxism following a Party-sponsored visit to Moscow.
In 1956, his publication What is Socialism?
coincided with unrest throughout Poland and was formally banned. In 1966 he was kicked out of the Polish United Workers' Party; lost his professorship in 1968; and went to live in exile.
Adam Michnik, one of the founders of Solidarity, called Kolakowski "one of the most prominent creators of Polish culture."
Some of the awards he received throughout his life: the Order of the White Eagle, Poland's highest honor; a MacArther "genius" grant; and the first John W. Kluge Prize for Lifetime Achievement in the Humanities and Social Sciences from the Library of Congress.
One of his key beliefs was that the cultural role of philosophy was “never to let the inquisitive energy of mind go to sleep, never to stop questioning what appears to be obvious and definitive, always to defy the seemingly intact resources of common sense.”