Sergei Proleev – Doctor of Philosophy, Professor, Leading Researcher at the Institute of Philosophy of the National Academy of Sciences of Ukraine. President of the Ukrainian Philosophical Foundation, editor-in-chief of the scientific and theoretical journal “Philosophical Thought”
― Sergei, my first question for you will be in the following form: what, in your opinion, is happening in the world as a whole? The philosopher’s vision: the next stage of the crisis or something more? Perhaps some kind of civilizational scrapping? What do you think?
― Now we live in the era of globalization. It means that planetary humanity is learning to live together. All-planetary humanity is a very young phenomenon. Its appearance is associated with the phenomenon of globalization and, in fact, it is an extremely serious test. We can say that a person in his history lived in different formations.
And now, historically, I have come to this format of planetary humanity. And what will follow from this is hard to say. But one thing can be said for sure: either a person learns to live in the format of an all-planetary humanity, or an extraordinary shock and, probably, some kind of collapse awaits human history. I hope it will not happen, but, in any case, the process is difficult and traumatic.
― When you say “collapse”, what can it be – in the worst cases? I’m not talking about environmental disaster or nuclear Armageddon. It’s about some kind of social and anthropological catastrophe.
― To understand this, you need to comprehend the essence of the collision-test, which is contained in this phenomenon of all-planetary humanity. So what does it mean? It means that a situation has arisen in the life of people (now we are not turning to its origins), in which not a single people, not a single person can live, realize their life otherwise than in the semantic horizon of all-planetary humanity. This is how it happened, let’s not go back to why.
What does this situation mean in this case? Why is she carrying an extremely severe test? This is a situation where fatal differences coexist: cultural, mental, historical. All this can be summarized by the concept of cultural differences if we understand the culture broadly enough. And the important thing is that these differences are irreplaceable.
They exist and reproduce, but at the same time, these very different ways of life need to coexist somehow. And the problem of planetary humanity is the problem of how to coexist so that this coexistence does not turn into a conflict, aggression, in the end, a war of self-destruction.
― Then I will have a clarifying question, possibly taking the conversation to another level. In fact, if you look retrospectively at the history of civilization, then there were periods not of globalization, of course, but of the mutual influence of high cultures. Let’s say, Arab culture, which brought both Plato and Aristotle to Europe and which, in a sense, assimilated both Indian and Chinese philosophical culture.
That is, there was some kind of interpenetration at high levels. If you look, then, in my opinion, there is now a very depressing situation, when the levels, horizons of high culture, philosophical culture, seem to shrink. But Husserl wrote about this, then Heidegger in his works on the transformation of philosophy into an academic discipline.
And there is a feeling – I remember Vargas Llosa’s work “The Civilization of the Spectacle” – that in the modern world showmen have taken the place of philosophers. Therefore, the question is: what, in principle, then can be the modern horizon of this global humanity in a situation in which, perhaps, I am a pessimist, but nevertheless the philosophical horizons are not only in oblivion, but also actively discarded.
― In your reasoning there are several completely different plots. In particular, you started with the interaction of cultures. Of course, it has always happened as long as there are people on earth. There was always interaction between them, cultural exchange, influence. This is undoubtedly sometimes a very strong influence, assimilation, absorption and so on – everything can be deciphered.
And the question is that the current situation differs, firstly, in the irreversibility of this interaction, since in previous epochs all these interactions and influences had a more or less local character, even if they turned out to be a drama of absorption of one culture by another, then all the same they were local dramas. This is the first thing.
Secondly, one should not forget that humanity has gone through the stage of that world-wide historical project, or, shall we say, that project “world history” that was generated and implemented by European, in fact, Western civilization. It is also worth remembering that the whole history took on a worldwide character also in the recent past. At best, we can talk about the beginning of the modern era, that is, the last 400-500 years – which is quite a bit in terms of history.
And the current state is the world of the epoch of world history in the sense that modernity gave it. Because the world history, engendered by modernity, is a universal history. This is a story that unfolds on a universal basis. Where humanity appears as a kind of unity. As a kind of unified human nature, if we recall the natural-legal paradigm of modernity. Therefore, both the vector itself and the system of mutually related values, priorities, and so on constitute certain elements of this universal project.
The era of globalization is a completely different situation. This is the situation after the project of universal history, when this project has exhausted itself, it has lost its effectiveness. Again, I’m not going to analyze why, I’m just stating the state of things. Therefore, the current situation and the situation of cultural interaction that takes place in it is always a cultural exchange not only between interacting agents, but also a part of global interaction.
That is, always, in every interaction, even at the level of the individual, not only the direct agent of interaction comes into play, the global world in various forms comes into play. Let’s say the current so-called “information environment”, or the information world, is one of its hypostases.
Global peace is not just a mechanical combination of everything and everyone on our planet. This, in particular, is the modern global information environment. Further, I do not intend to develop this motive, I simply demonstrate how different the situation of this cultural interaction is today. This is the first plot. Another plot, as I understand you, relates to the effect of philosophy in the modern world.
― Yes, exactly about that. I said that the project of universality was inevitably based on philosophy. What follows from this?
― The fact is that philosophy has its own essential mission and it may well fulfill this mission with dignity in the modern world. That is, no one takes away from philosophy as such this possibility, this right, and cannot take away from the very essence of the matter. Another thing is the state of this essential vocation of philosophy today. And the way, the forms in which philosophical discourse is being carried out today is a different question. And if we raise this question, then, of course, there are many unpleasant symptoms here.
In particular, today philosophy exists primarily as a university philosophy. And this, on the one hand, is a fairly traditional form of education. Still, philosophy within the university is a stable form of the existence of philosophical thinking. But, on the other hand, one must take into account that the present university, its place in culture, its effect (cultural, social, intellectual) is something different from what it was 100-200 years ago. I do not go into more ancient times.
And today the university itself is rapidly degrading. It is known that it is in crisis, and the university has been talking about the crisis for decades. This is also true. In general, people have been talking about it since the 19th century. What does it mean? We have a very deep crisis of the university, not just as an educational institution. Namely, the crisis of the university in its social and cultural role. That is, it has practically lost the role that the European university played in relation to culture and, in many respects, in society.
Again, why and how is another matter. And this degradation of the university as an institution, I repeat, not just educational, but also social, intellectual, cultural, it undoubtedly affects what is university philosophy. That is, in a nutshell, university philosophy is more and more reborn into what the classics of the once influential doctrine in our vastness called “philistinism.”
It is into this philistinism, intellectual rationality, and today’s university philosophy is being reborn, with a very solid respectability, with quite visible well-being, although this well-being is also called into question by the current existence of the university.
In fact, philosophy is increasingly shrinking in terms of its presence, in the power of its influence at the university. But on the whole, it retains its respectability, no one drives itwith a stick. However, at the same time, it implicitly refuses more and more from the solution of those large problems that constitute the essence of philosophy itself. As a result, what is called philosophy, less and less in the world ceases to be it.
― That is, in a sense, we have a challenge, a global challenge. And this challenge is related to what the new semantic horizon will be. Who then will be able, and will be able at all, to answer the question, what will be the semantic horizons of this global unity? Considering that, as you said, this issue carries with it irreparable contradictions.
― The fact that we are talking about the crisis of philosophy does not mean its crisis. Philosophy, in its vocation, in its potential, in its capabilities, is not defective, it has not lost its relevance, effectiveness and significance. On the contrary, perhaps in the current circumstances it becomes extremely urgent and necessary.
The crisis of the current state of philosophy, or, I emphasize, the existence of institutional forms of modern philosophy, consists precisely in the fact that this mass community, which bears the name of philosophers, refuses, and quite deliberately, from solving its own philosophical problems in the modern world.
Now, if there is a request, but this request is not noticed, but deal with a host of other tasks. The academic field provides the opportunity for endless pursuits. Playing with glass beads can last as long as you like. And if you pose the question of what kind of intellectual power, intellectual practice can solve how all-planetary humanity is possible and what format of its existence is probable, then philosophy is essentially designed to solve this type of problem.
― For this, one must not deviate from the philosophical vocation, from the authentic spirit of philosophy. To follow it and actually solve this problem is really impartial, unbiased, without looking back at the numerous social, cultural, educational contexts that dictate your answer.
When a thinker is in a certain situation in which the context of his existence dictates answers to him, and he listens to this and begins to be sensitive not to the challenge that he must solve, but to this whisper of the context, formalizing it with all the strength of his education, then and it turns out this crisis of the current state is more likely the bearers of the philosophical cause than of philosophy itself.