The philosopher Hugo Kołłątaj believed that a moral evil of which mankind was unaware had stolen into an ideal world created by a first or highest cause and known as nature. He was anxious for this reason to make people aware that they had gone astray in ignorance and error and to set them on the path towards the good, whose expression would be an ideally ordered world. The good means acting in harmony with the will of nature and accepting the guidance of the physical-moral order that is the source of human inheritance (a person’s inherent and indivisible rights) and obligations (the action necessary to preserve that inheritance). Not only could people secure prosperity and happiness for themselves by adhering to these precepts, they could also act morally and therefore become virtuous and just. Because of the difficulty of establishing the exact period in which evil appeared in the world, Kołłątaj fixed it – but only symbolically – as the time of the Biblical Flood. In reality, he believed that the moral fall had come about as a result of a series of floods, earthquakes and volcanic eruptions. After these cataclysms had ceased, the handful of people still remaining on the earth began to come together in groups to create a new social fabric. Yet they did not proceed in accordance with the laws of nature and so brought countless tragedies and enormous suffering upon mankind. Because life before the Flood was impossible to comprehend, it was unusually difficult to formulate guidance for proper conduct that would make it possible for people to properly regulate their mutual relationships. As an advocate of the theory of the law of nature, however, Hugo Kołłątaj believed that nature, as the imperative of right reason, objectively determines the purposes and moral norms people should pursue and follow in life. He therefore believed that it was possible to restore good in the world, but that it would require an enormous effort from all people.
Keywords: Kołłątaj · order · inheritance · obligations · mankind · nature
The journal founded by Leszek Kołakowski, Bronisław Baczko and Jan Garewicz appears continuously since 1957.