Former Laureates

Leszek Kolakowski

Leszek Kolakowski


To mark the 25th anniversary of the Praemium Erasmianum Foundation in 1983, four Erasmus Prizes were awarded. The recipients were Raymond Aron, Isaiah Berlin, Leszek Kolakowski and Marguerite Yourcenar.

Leszek Kolakowski (1927-2009), was among the most distinguished Polish philosophers. After studying philosophy at the University of Lodz he published his great work on Avicenna in 1952. Upon his return from a trip to Moscow he advocated a humanist interpretation of Marx. For that reason he was dismissed from his post as Professor of Philosophy at Warsaw University in 1968 which led to his departure from Poland. His study of Spinoza appeared in 1969, and he published widely on religious questions and the 17th century free-thinkers. His three-volume History of Marxism gives an illuminating insight into the significance of Marx and Marxism.

The Erasmus Prize was awarded to Leszek Kolakowski for his great personal courage in his writings, based on the Christian faith – in his opinion the true school of the European spirit – against social utopias, which he found to degenerate so often into totalitarian thinking, and for his call for vigilance against such systems.

Leszek Kolakowski and Mme Aron donated their prize money to the ‘Fondation pour une Entraide Intellectuelle Européenne’ to be used for travel grants for East-European writers, scholars and artists.