The Death of Poland’s Socrates

RapaczynskiAndrzej Rapaczynski on Kolakowski in Project Syndicate:

Kolakowski came back to Poland a number of times in his last years, although he never settled there again. He was an icon among his fellow countrymen – indeed, for his 70th birthday, the largest newspaper in Poland organized a celebration during which they crowned him (with a crown of laurel leaves, of course) … the King of Europe. When he died, the Polish Parliament observed a minute of silence. Poland went into mourning.

But the man himself was never a monument. Indeed, his experience with the “Hegelian bacillus” made Kolakowski forever sensitive to all enthusiasms and all-encompassing creeds. He preferred humor to hectoring, gently making fun of those whom he criticized, while always making sure that even the most severe intellectual critique did not deny the humanity of his opponents. Refusing to believe anything unconditionally, he retained that most important characteristic of a truly great man: he never had unconditional faith in himself.

Another quality he shared with Socrates.