Western culture and thought
“Western culture and thought are now in a state of maximum decline” – Véronique Zanetti, Professor of Political Philosophy at the University of Bielefeld.
Source: https://huxley.media/zapadnaja-kultura-i-mysl-nyne-prebyvajut-v-sostojanii-maksimalnogo-upadka-veronik-zanetti-professor-politicheskoj-filosofii-universiteta-bilefelda/ blogs.uni-bielefeld.de
[Veronique Zanetti (born 1959) is a German professor of Political Philosophy at Faculty of History, Philosophy, and Theology, Bielefeld University.]
The monstrous war in Ukraine, the unprovoked brutal aggression of Russia, has posed a number of difficult questions for us Europeans, the answers to which, it turned out, are not so easy to give.
This difficulty is partly due to the complexity of the objective situation. But it is much more important that, in addition to the objective complexity, Europe’s inability to give a clear answer is due to much more sad reasons. I will put it bluntly: Western culture and thought are now in a state of maximum decline. This decline is twofold—it is both epistemological and ethical.
I am surprised by the position of some of my fellow philosophers who offer certain options for the surrender of Ukraine – for the sake of the good goal of preserving the people and the state. They all proceed from a false epistemological premise – that the surrender of Ukraine will stop the war. I do not yet touch the ethical side of the issue and consider only epistemological ignorance. What I mean?
When some philosophers claim that the surrender of Ukraine will stop the killing of people and the destruction of infrastructure – why do they say so? The version of Kremlin lobbying does not explain the situation. The reason is different – the credibility of the facts. The terms of Putin’s ultimatum are a fact. But to dwell on a fact and trust it means to completely forget about the foundations of both thinking and the theory of knowledge – epistemology.
Since ancient times, philosophy has learned to distinguish between phenomena and essence and, accordingly, to apply different methods to them. Fixation of phenomena is doxa, opinion and nothing else. Opinion deals only with the appearance of things, not with the essence, and is a sign of an undeveloped, sleepy mind.
On the contrary, episteme, knowledge is the penetration of thinking beyond the veil of things, the understanding of hidden foundations. Episteme is associated with a lengthy process of investigation, as opposed to reactive opinion. Are the philosopher colleagues I mentioned doing research? No. They rely on impressions and beliefs.
Investigating, they would come to the conclusion that the capitulation of Ukraine would only lead to repression, the genocide of the pro-Ukrainian population and the complete loss of state independence. This is dictated by the logic of imperial authoritarian Russia. But, unfortunately, my colleagues do not see these circumstances. And the fact that they do this is not because of their personal qualities, but solely because of the oblivion of the culture of knowledge and knowledge. This is a general trend.
And now about the ethical decline of the West. Is it possible to ignore the absolute criteria of good and evil, formed by European thought from Augustine to Kant? Is it possible to compromise with evil by calling it realpolitik? For the European intellectual tradition, this is unthinkable. But now they call it realpolitik and call “not to humiliate Russia.”
Politicians argue that this is necessary to maintain economic prosperity. But ethics is absolute in the sense that any compromise with it destroys the foundations of European culture. Destroy the individual, culture and state.
The West ceases to see the essence. The West refuses the absolutism of ethics. Do we understand that this is a direct road to the death of the West?
[Writer Irina Mirochnik is the President at IMMER Group & Doctor of Philosophy in Law(PhD)]
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