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”
― And now I come to the central question. Ukraine, it turns out, is also involved in this crisis. In the crisis and in the challenge of planetary humanity, and in the crisis of the institutional forms of culture, and in the crisis of the university, in the crisis of the institutional form of philosophy, plus a state of war. And what prospects do you see for Ukraine regarding all these issues? Is there a resource?
― You see, if we talk about the prospects of Ukraine, we need to decide on the subject of the conversation. We need to decide what we are talking about when we talk about Ukraine. Because there can be completely different interpretations here. The fact that you have listed various crises should not lead us into a state of any panic or shock. In general, a crisis is a natural state of any movement. This is a transitional situation, where, of course, there is no need to play with words, there is a crisis of death, a crisis of growth. Crises are also different.
But the current state of humanity is by no means hopeless. It is early to panic. As for the Ukrainian situation, in fact, it is important to understand: all the collisions – I would use this word instead of the crisis – and the tests of Ukrainian society are inseparable from those of modern humanity, because no one can evade participation in the global world: not a single people, not one country, not one corporation, and even an individual, family, and so on. In what form it happens is another question, how indirectly it happens is another question.
But nevertheless, even if there is some native in the Amazon jungle who has American dollars somewhere in his belt, then he is also a participant in the global world. So, the peculiarity of the Ukrainian situation lies in the fact that Ukraine fell into this set of modern challenges, without first solving a number of other historical problems. We are talking about the university crisis. But what is called by this word in Ukraine is very far from what is essentially a university.
― I agree.
― That is, in Ukraine, by and large, the task is to create a university. Even in that classical Humboldt understanding, although the Humboldt model is not the only one, but nonetheless. In the Ukrainian so-called higher school, which is too much school and too little university, it is still necessary to grow to the level of the university itself. Although you should not measure everyone with one ruler.
― But there are trends.
― Yes, but we are talking about some kind of mass situation. And if there are some gratifying exceptions that fit closer to the model of universities, they are mostly exceptions. And this situation generally reflects all the other problems of Ukraine in the modern world. The problem is that our country is falling into a kind of double loop. She has not solved the basic problems in relation to many public institutions yet.
And here it is not only the university, but also the judiciary, for example. Courts, law and order, just a political system. In the end, it is just entrepreneurship, because in our country we do not have a basic initial distinction, which alone does business in the proper sense of the word – it is the separation of business from power. We have a completely archaic fusion of business and government. Then the phenomenon of free enterprise at its core is abolished altogether.
― That is, it seems to exclude the institution of private property.
― Yes, in other words, we still need to form the institution of private property. Because in our country private property is not guaranteed due to the fact that the so-called power, generally speaking, the usurper power that exists within the political system, can revise property relations at any moment, even if we are talking about the largest owners.
Therefore, the main problem of Ukraine is that many other layers are piled on one layer of unresolved problems. But this is not a reason for despair, for lamentations “everything is lost, everything is lost.” No, in its own way, this situation, if you approach it thoughtfully and honestly, contains sufficient potential for productive decisions. But these decisions must be made and implemented, and not engaged in continuous demagoguery, which, unfortunately, is being done by the parasitic political layer.
― Does Ukraine have a resource to do all this, what is your opinion? What is the source of your optimism?
― What do you even call a resource?
― I mean, first of all, at least a minimal nucleus of the intellectual elite or civil society, which could at least solve these issues. Because if you imagine that we have a desert instead of both, then theoretically there is simply no one to turn to.
― First, we, of course, do not have a desert; all sorts of apocalyptic head grabs, in my opinion, are inappropriate. Ukraine has very significant resources. But they themselves mean little. Because resources are only opportunities. And these opportunities need to be used. The problem of Ukrainian reality is not so much in the absence of resources, intellectual, social, natural, etc., as in how to use them fruitfully. Why this does not happen is another question.
― Are there any chances that someone, something, some force will be able to use these resources fruitfully?
― Let me finish my thought. So, this is the first feature. My experience of communicating with foreign colleagues and a number of other situations of adequate interaction showed me one thing that initially surprised me a lot. It showed that our native intellectuals have much better training and education than one might have expected. I am not talking about a mass situation, I am talking about a certain circle.
The paradox of the Ukrainian situation is that along with an extremely unhealthy environment with intellectual cadres, when the country is simply overloaded with simulations of intellectual life, pseudoscience, production of pseudoscientific cadres, we see a fairly tangible core or circle of people who have a very decent intellectual training. And here the criterion is simple: they can conduct a dialogue with their European colleagues on an equal footing. And if we have this indicator, it means that it shows something. This is the first thing that I would like to point out.
And the second moment, the predicate, is that the very situation of action gives rise to agents. You can’t think that somewhere in the towers there are great minds, and just call – they themselves will come, invent and do everything. This has never happened anywhere else. The very situation of action gave rise to outstanding figures, it found them, called on, recruited and eventually created them. Difficulties created great generals, artists, thinkers.
I will not refer to well-known examples, but, say, it is not for nothing that so many brilliant artists were born in Renaissance Italy. And there were so many of them, because the colossal cultural activity of the popes unfolded. Moreover, not only the popes, but also all influential persons competed with each other in this field. And this colossal request for artistic genius, in general, gave birth to this genius.
I do not want to simplify, they say, there will be a request, but geniuses will appear – everything is somewhat more complicated. However, it is important that ready-made actors outside the action situation are nonsense. And just the peculiarity of the state of affairs in Ukraine is that there is no such real demand for intellectuals. First of all, on the part of the state. As I began in one of my articles a long time ago: “Reason in Ukraine has no rights”.
― I agree with you.
― One of the forces that are lacking in our country is the autonomy of reason. One of the cornerstones of European civilization. If we are truly making this movement to Europe, we need to take care of these cornerstones. Because if they are not in the foundation, then all this Europeanization of Ukraine will turn out to be fiction.
― Then we have a vicious circle situation. There should be a request from the state, but there is no indication that it will appear at all.
― No, the fact is that the request may be not only from the state. If we are talking about the current Ukrainian philosophy, then it is actively being ousted from university life, from the structure of university education. This process was especially active about 5 years ago, and it continues. It is associated not just with some kind of irrational hatred of philosophy, but above all with the constant reduction of the university pie, the teacher’s bread, when they begin to cut and divide into these rations. Philosophy is nowhere a core subject, it is thrown to the sidelines.
This situation is not only with philosophy, this is the case, for example, with the same mathematics. So, in contrast to this marginalization of philosophy in the structure of university education, we see in recent years the ever-growing demand of society and citizens for philosophy. And this request is acquiring an ever more solid, serious, solid form.
That is, it may well be, let us dream about this, that from this request philosophy will acquire those possibilities of its existence that the state has never provided – the possibilities of philosophical research and translation, philosophical education, philosophical reason in general, its application to the vital tasks of society. It may well be that the trend will be just the same we expected.