Born in Radom in 1927, Kołakowski was the outstanding Polish philosopher. He lived in exile since 1968 and was a Fellow of All Souls College at Oxford. He died on July 17, 2009.
His primary interest was the history of philosophy, especially since the eighteenth century liberalism, the philosophy of culture, and the philosophy of religion. Aside from philosophical texts, Kołakowski wrote literary works. These, however, are closely associated with the author's professional concerns, and would have to be classed as philosophical tales (Thirteen Tales from the Kingdom of Lailonia and Conversations with the Devil). In these tales, Kołakowski uses an accessible and attractive literary form to analyze philosophical problems and paradoxes and to present discussions among different philosophical schools and doctrines. These stories are marked by intelligent wit and a mastery of literary conventions and styles, especially in the Biblical tales.
Kołakowski's books long appeared in Poland in underground editions, playing a prominent role in shaping the Polish intellectual opposition. Especially significant was the essay The Chaplain and the Jester, which analyzed the attitudes of the intelligentsia toward authority. The first text of Kołakowski's to be confiscated by the censor - and, subsequently, the first to begin to function underground - was the 1956 manifesto "What is Socialism?", which he wrote for "Po prostu" magazine. In 1996, Leszek Kołakowski recorded ten short lectures on issues in the philosophy of culture (on authority, tolerance, betrayal, equality, fame, and falsehood, among others) for Polish Television. These were then published in book form as Mini-Lectures on Maxi-Issues.
Source: www.polska2000.pl; copyright: Stowarzyszenie Willa Decjusza, 2001.
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