Utopia and nihilism: Leszek Kolakowski’s philosophical lessons

Наукові Записки Наукма. Філософія Та Релігієзнавство 1:35-42 (2018)
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The article analyzes the main aspects of the interpretation of philosophical thinking by the Polish philosopher Leszek Kolakowskі (1927–2009). He is more known as a brilliant disputant on the history of Marxism and the prospects for the further development of Marxist theory, but his thoughts on the nature and functions of philosophical thinking in the broadest sense are of no less importance, since they address the painful issue of the autonomy of thinking. The purpose of the article is to reconstruct the principles that, according to the philosopher, would allow thinking to maintain its autonomy under the pressure of ideas and ideologies. Utopia and nihilism in the interpretation of L. Kolakowskі appear as temptations of the modern world. It is in the quest for defending from these “monsters” (L. Kolakowskі) that the philosopher comes to the conclusion that the basis of utopia and nihilism are certain ideas about the truth. Through the prism of this theoretical discovery, he reveals the importance of consensus, tolerance, compromise, and non-consistency (inconsistency) as epistemological tools of support or undermining of ideologies. The basic epistemological model the philosopher used has been reproduced by means of theoretical reconstruction. This is the attitude of the subject to the truth, which is realized in two ways: to either master the truth on the basis of certain beliefs or neglect the truth on the basis of other beliefs. With the help of this model, the philosopher comes to understanding that dogmatism and unification are not only utopian diseases but also nihilists. The reason for this is loyalty to one’s own truth, that is, thinking without gaps based on unchanging principles and aimed at reproducing certain institutional and social constants. Instead, inconsistency as a principle forms a completely different setting, the advantage of which is that it extends to itself and frees a thinker from the need to be or not to be consistent, but does not relieve the search of truth and meaning, without which human existence is impossible, according to L. Kolakowskі. The reconstruction was carried out on the basis of analysis of articles and essays of various years, combined with the development of concepts of utopia and nihilism as alternative projects of human existence, rooted in the epistemological directions of the subject.


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