Modernity on Endless Trial / Edition 2

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Leszek Kolakowski delves into some of the most intellectually vigorous questions of our time in this remarkable collection of essays garnished with his characteristic wit. Ten of the essays have never appeared before in English.

"Exemplary. . . . It should be celebrated." --Arthur C. Danto, New York Times Book Review

"This book . . . express[es] Kolakowski's thought on God, man, reason, history, moral truth and original sin, prompted by observation of the dramatic struggle among Christianity, the Enlightenment and modern totalitarianism. It is a wonderful collection of topics." --Thomas Nagel, Times Literary Supplement

"No better antidote to bumper-sticker thinking exists than this collection of 24 'appeals for moderation in consistency,' and never has such an antidote been needed more than it is now." --Joseph Coates, Chicago Tribune

"Whether learned or humorous, these essays offer gems in prose of diamond hardness, precision, and brilliance." --Thomas D'Evelyn, The Christian Science Monitor

--a "Notable Books of the Year 1991" selection, New York Times Book Review --a "Noted with Pleasure" selection, New York Times Book Review --a "Summer Reading 1991" selection, New York Times Book Review --a "Books of the Year" selection, The Times Leszek Kolakowski is professor emeritus in the Department of Philosophy at the University of Chicago and a fellow of All Souls College, Oxford University. He is the author of The Presence of Myth, Husserl and the Search for Certitude, and Tales from the Kingdom of Lailonia and the Key to Heaven.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Kolakowski ( The Presence of Myth ) urges caution in embracing the modern. For example, in Marxism, presumed by many to be a scientific, modernist creed, he sees ``the same yearning after the archaic community'' that drove Nazism. These stimulating, deeply learned essays by a University of Chicago philosopher grapple with the pitfalls of both ideological and religious systems, and the capacity of the open society to destroy itself. ``Conservative,'' ``liberal'' and ``socialist'' are no longer mutually exclusive political positions, argues Kolakowski. Perceiving an innate human need for religion, he ponders: ``To reject the sacred is also to reject the idea of evil.'' Along with essays on the exile as outsider, self-deceptions of intellectuals and the Christian roots of modern humanism, there are droll spoofs of philosophy (``The General Theory of Not-Gardening'') and of historical scholarship (``Emperor Kennedy Legend''). (Dec.)
Library Journal
These ``semiphilosophical sermons'' by a University of Chicago social theorist consider topics from markets to myth, the devil to Kantian personhood. Ten of the 24 essays have not appeared previously in English. All are clearly and intelligently written, steeped in continental attitudes but still accessible to readers of a more Anglo-American orientation. Especially notable is Kolakowski's defense of Eurocentrism: he argues that propagating the European ideal of cultural self-criticism affirms the equality of cultures without tolerating intolerance. Thoughtful lay readers and some scholars will find this volume interesting.-- Bruce Umbaugh, Univ. of Maryland, College Park
This collection of 23 essays, written between 1973 and 1986, reflects the broad range of Kolakowski's (philosophy and Committee on Social Thought, U. of Chicago) thought as he tackles the nature and limits of modernity, Christianity in the modern world, politics and ideology, and the question of the claim to knowledge of the human sciences. Ten of the essays (all previously published) have never appeared before in English. Annotation c. Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780226450469
  • Publisher: University of Chicago Press
  • Publication date: 6/28/1997
  • Edition description: 1
  • Edition number: 2
  • Pages: 270
  • Sales rank: 1,471,738
  • Product dimensions: 6.00 (w) x 9.00 (h) x 1.00 (d)

Meet the Author

Leszek Kolakowski (1927-2009) was professor of philosophy at the University of Warsaw until the Polish political crisis of March 1968 when he was formally expelled. He then moved to universities in North America and the United Kingdom. From 1981 to 1994 he was a professor in the Committee on Social Thought and the department of philosophy at the University of Chicago. He is best known for his critical analyses of Marxist thought, especially his three-volume history, Main Currents of Marxism (1976). In his later work, he increasingly focused on philosophical and religious questions. He was the author of numerous books.

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Table of Contents

I. On Modernity, Barbarity, and Intellectuals
1. Modernity on Endless Trial
2. Looking for the Barbarians: The Illusions of Cultural Universalism
3. The Intellectuals
4. Why Do We Need Kant?
5. In Praise of Exile
II. On the Dilemmas of the Christian Legacy
6. The Revenge of the Sacred in Secular Culture
7. Can the Devil Be Saved?
8. On the So-Called Crisis of Christianity
9. The Illusion of Demythologization
10. Philosophical Faith in the Face of Revelation
11. From Truth to Truth
III. On Liberals, Revolutionaries, and Utopians
12. The Death of Utopia Reconsidered
13. The Idolatry of Politics
14. The Self-Poisoning of the Open Society
15. Politics and the Devil
16. Irrationality in Politics
17. Marxism and Human Rights
18. Revolution—a Beautiful Sickness
19. How to Be a Conservative-Liberal-Socialist: A Credo
IV. On Scientific Theories
20. Why an Ideology Is Always Right
21. The General Theory of Not-Gardening
22. Fabula mundi and Cleopatra's Nose
23. Emperor Kennedy Legend: A New Anthropological Debate
Epilogue: Education to Hatred, Education to Dignity

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