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Dialogue and Universalism

Volume 21, Issue 2, 2011

Universalistic Ideas in Philosophy, Multiple Civilizations and Scientific Applications

Józef L. Krakowiak, Lesław Kawalec
Pages 61-83

Leszek Kołakowski between Activist Universalism and Contemplative Mysticism

The text below should not be treated as a direct source of knowledge on the dynamic of philosophical ideas and attitudes of Leszek Kołakowski, but as an attempt at placing his thinking on the map of the 20th century universalistic thought, i.e. that which is the closest to the editors of Dialogue and Universalism. The starting point of the picture is the category of inorganic body from Marx’s Manuscripts and Two Sources... by Bergson, which enables a non-naturalistic description of the metaphysical perspective of both these activistic anthropologies, speaking of the evolution of mankind in the vein of Hegelian Spirit causality. Another system of reference is A. Badiou’s universalistic but irreligious interpretation of St. Paul’s ideas. Both of these set out an activistic perspective which is confronted with a solely contemplative vision of mysticism, as expressed by Leszek Kołakowski, and a modern concept of belief in what surpasses but does not enslave, which Kołakowski shared with Jaspers and Paul Ricoeur. Against such a notional grid the author seeks to render the peculiar quality of Kołakowski’s pulsating and greatly dialectical metaphysical position, associated with a skeptical attitude of a rationalist in the face of the phenomenon of the world’s indifference that he experiences and within the framework of the continued existential note of the non-atheistic existentialism of Kierkegaard, Jaspers and Pascal in its combination with St. Augustine’s concept of evil, read in the context of Auschwitz and Kolyma. Taken together these ideas sort of form an instrument to express mythical questions about the sense of life and history.

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