Leszek Kolakowski, RIP

The Polish philosopher Leszek Kolakowski, who spent the last four decades of his life in England and the United States, died today at his home in Oxford, England. He was just a couple months shy of his 82nd birthday. Kolakowski was probably best know for his magisterial three-volume Main Currents of Marxism , published in the late 1970s and a monument to scholarly industry, intellectual penetration, and political common sense. Although Kolakowski had himself been a Marxist in his youth, he came to see, as he put it in the concluding pages of his book, that "Marxism has been the greatest fantasy of our century." Kolakowski's contribution to the library of political freedom was immense. So was his contribution to the library of philosophical and religious speculation. I was privileged to study with him in graduate school and I have never met a philosopher possessed of so commanding an acquaintance with the vast panoply of human speculation. Kolakowski was, furthermore, an extraordinarily witty writer, as anyone who has dipped into his tales and fables knows. I will have more to say about this remarkable thinker in another venue, but I wanted to record here my debt to his work and great sadness at the news of his passing.