Wednesday, July 22, 2009

defying common sense

Defying common sense by being not quite sure
about the questions that lie far beyond
scientific certainties may help us to endure,
so long as we’re aware we’re being conned,
while being so inquisitive that we do not
allow our minds to fall asleep, and dream
of what may be not just the plot but counterplot
behind the facts that are not what they seem.

Inspired by an obituary by Nicholas Kulish on the Polish philosopher Leszek Kolakowski in the NYT on July 21, 2009:
Leszek Kolakowski was born Oct. 23, 1927, in the city of Radom, south of Warsaw. Like most Poles of his generation, Mr. Kolakowski knew hardship early. Under the German occupation of Poland during World War II, Mr. Kolakowski and his family were forcibly relocated to different towns and villages. Because the Germans had closed Polish schools, young Leszek had to teach himself and take exams in the underground school system that was created. After the war, he studied philosophy first at the University of Lodz and later earned a doctorate at the University of Warsaw. He took a teaching position there, rising to chairman of the history of philosophy section. Early in his life he embraced Communism as a reaction to the destruction inflicted upon his country by Nazism, greeting the Red Army as liberators after years of German oppression. But a trip to Moscow intended as a reward for promising young Marxist intellectuals proved instead to be a turning point, exposing for him what he described as “the enormity of material and spiritual desolation caused by the Stalinist system.” In an interview with The New York Times in 2004, Mr. Kolakowski said, “This ideology was supposed to mold the thinking of people, but at a certain moment it became so weak and so ridiculous that nobody believed in it, neither the ruled nor the rulers.”….
In a noted lecture in 1982, Mr. Kolakowski said the cultural role of philosophy was “never to let the inquisitive energy of mind go to sleep, never to stop questioning what appears to be obvious and definitive, always to defy the seemingly intact resources of common sense” and “never to forget that there are questions that lie beyond the legitimate horizon of science and are nonetheless crucially important to the survival of humanity as we know it.”

© 2009 Gershon Hepner 7/21/09

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