Monday, October 06, 2008

A Book I Must Read

What distinguishes [Leszek] Kolakowski from [the other anti-utopians] was his abiding concern with religion. His argument against Marxism was not only that communism was a utopia whose pursuit led to totalitatianism. He argued that Marx's conception of communism was a byproduct of a tradition of mysticism going back to Plato and Plotinus, revived in Germany by Christian mystics such as Meister Eckart and Jakob Bohme, and given a philosophical gloss by Hegel. Most Western critics of Marx's ideal of communism have attacked it primarily on political grounds, arguing--for example--that the abolition of markets involved too great a centralization of power. Kolakowski's criticism, summarized in the last sentence of Main Currents [of Marxism], was quite different; it was explicitly religious: "The self-deification of mankind, to which Marxism gave philosophical expression, has ended in the same way as all such attempts, whether individual or collective: it has revealed itself as the farcical aspects of human bondage."

-John Gray: "A Rescue of Religion," A Review of Why is There Something Rather than Nothing?: 23 Questions from Great Philosophers by Leszek Kolakowski, (Basic Books, 2007) in The New York Review of Books, October 9, 2008, p. 43-45.


Blogger Andrew Shields said...

One thing I found disconcerting that was mentioned in the review: the original book was about 30 philosophers, but seven of the essays were not included in the English translation. Why do 23 but not all 30?

And I found it really odd that one of the philosophers left out was Heidegger, not because I think Heidegger is the cat's meow (I don't), but because the title of the book is from Heidegger's "Introduction to Metaphysics," so the title does not make sense if you leave out the Heidegger chapter!

10:25 AM  
Blogger greg rappleye said...

Yes, I thought that was strange--and annoying--as well.

In particular, I would have wanted to read the essay on Meister Eckhart.

10:32 AM  
Blogger Andrew Shields said...

Time to learn Polish? :-)

10:43 AM  
Blogger Happyflower said...

I must get a copy of this! ;-)

12:23 AM  

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