Eschatological outlook: processes of understanding and reduction in the perception of human existence

Table of contents: The Kazakh-American Free University Academic Journal №8 - 2016

Author: Gusseva Nina, The “Kazakhstan Philosophy Congress” Association of Philosophers, D. Serikbayev East-Kazakhstan State Technical University, Kazakhstan

Doctor of Philosophy, Chair of the East Division of Kazakhstan Philosophical Congress Member of the Academy of Acmeology,

Head of the International Ce nter for Methodological Research and Innovation Programs, Member of the Academy of Acmeology, Kazakhstan

[1]Modern public consciousness is characterized by a process of syncretization at a level associated with a rational, systematic and scientific understanding of the world. This manifests itself primarily in the fusion of secular and religious perspectives and forms of understanding designed to express the actual existence of the concern about the prospects of existing in the world and existence of the world itself.

Global challenges that modern humanity faces and lack of rational explanations of their origin, and possible solutions attract increased attention to the problems of the doomsday as the end of all existence on the Earth, as well as to understanding hopes and possibilities for further existence of the Earth and all living organisms, including man and humankind. Existential approach to the whole range of issues related to the end of existence or the fate of the Universe, Man, Life and Death become the points of "alignment", or more precisely, the points of fusion of religious, philosophical and scientific world outlooks.

A range of eschatological questions[2] often presents a voluminous and very detailed (depending on a particular religious doctrine) religious outlook of the world, various characteristics of which are associated with numerous religious and mythological beliefs and doctrines. Still this range of eschatological questions is open to attempts to comprehend it in a "coordinate system", different from the major religious parameters.

Moreover, today's public consciousness is characterized by an increasing tendency of both irrationalization and rationalization in understanding the existing problems. Trends of irrationalism increasingly imply the emphasis on the emotional and sensual attitude to eschatological problems. It is associated with the denial to refer to any evidentiary bases and with reference to the faith, intuitions, etc. While, at the same time, rationalization trend implies consideration of eschatological problems in terms of logic, the presence or absence of evidence of certain conclusions and claims[3].

Alternativeness of these trends is, in a sense, an expression of an alternative position of religion and science in considering problems of life and death on a global scale. This alternativeness may be regarded as evidence of expansion of eschatological perspective beyond the purely religious worldview and religious ideology. In addition to alternative religious and scientific position in relation to the real meaning of the eschatological questions, there is another position, associated with the implementation of philosophical inquiry. Philosophical analysis makes it possible to change the orientation of a person in a huge number of questions concerning being, allows a man to be stronger and consciously solve problems. The eschatological perspective, expressed through the eschatological worldview, also needs a philosophical reflection.

The eschatological outlook reflects the interests of humanity to what is hidden beyond the limits of existence. The completion of any process, including the process of life, may give rise to the question: what is next? What will happen next? Eschatology as a doctrine accumulates understanding of this experience and creates ways to translate it from one culture to another. Each of the existing cultures creates its own version of understanding eschatological problems. In this regard, they develop their own version of how a man and humanity can exit the finiteness of being. The satisfaction of this interest repositions eschatological problems to the area of understanding these problems, which is always based on the assumption of the existence of the world as a large-scale starting point. Following this assumption awareness leads us to two options of postulates concerning the existence of the world – infinite and finite. These postulates may serve as starting points for developing certain attitude to eschatological problems.

In the first case, eschatological perspective is characterized as purely human, the origins of which should be disclosed in order to be able to prevent mental abnormalities of people on a mass scale. The assumption that there is a doomsday when the world is believed to be infinite and eternal is a kind of a nonsense. At the same time, acceptance of the idea of the infiniteness and eternity of the world may provoke ambiguous variants of their conjugacy. Therefore, the comprehension of the eschatological perspective is filled with different meanings. For example, the problem of correlation of the world homogeneousness to its finiteness differs from the problem of correlation of the world procedurality and general finiteness of all processes.

In the second case, when the world is perceived as finite, eschatological perspective becomes a par with the urgent problems the solution of which determines ways and possibilities of survival and development of a man and the humanity. Recognition of the finiteness of the world requires preparation for this day, identification of the conditions under which the time periods of the doomsday is moved for a longer date, disclosure of the conditions under which one can be provided with the longer existence, etc.

The contradictory thesis of finiteness and infinity of the world allows searching for the ways to resolve it or to separate contradictory parties. In the first case – in the case of searching the way to resolve contradictions, the finiteness and infinity of the world is determined by its unity. In the second case, we speak about different grounds to consider the world as finite or as infinite, while the infinity is discussed not only in terms of space, but also in terms of time, hence, we can speak about eternity.

Recognition of procedurality of all things provides the opportunity to consider them in terms of different individual states, provisions, definitions, etc., which are also characterized by certain procedurality. Certain conditions, provisions, definitions, belonging to all things, exist in them, and are inherent in them. In terms of consideration and differentiation of all things into individual conditions, positions, motions, etc., it is possible in each case, to identify the beginning of their procedurality and the termination of their existence. This fully applies to the consideration of the human world, which is a part of all things, through its division into countries, historical periods, nations, states, personalities, etc. Social phenomena, being procedural, provide the possibility of considering them in terms of the existence cycle in which we can and must identify the beginning and the end.

Consideration of the real-life processes (natural or social) is always associated with defining the starting point, the point that determines the process of further consideration, its progress and conclusions. Such consideration always has its beginning and its end. Consideration matrix is located within the boundaries of the beginning and the end.

Man’s understanding of the world man is always determined by man’s experience and practical attitude to the world. The practical attitude of a man to the orld is formed based on his relationship with the surrounding environment through his activities of different character. It is known that any activity may be of integrated and dividual character. Integrated activity is the basis for understanding the world and attitude toward the world of a man as a subject, that is not only capable of having his own creative and personal position, but also of implementing it. In philosophy, this position, as is known, is usually treated from the positions of subjectivity. Dividual activity characterizes not only the division of the human world, but also the natural world. It gives rise to dominance of private interest, which was initially opposed by "the interests of the world as a whole.

In this case, it is supposed that there is presence or absence of compliance between the existence of a human (and society) and the laws of nature. The lack of compliance is generated by the dominance of a private interest as the main characteristic of a relationship of man and society with the world. Understanding of this fact is vicariously embodied in various forms, including eschatological teachings. Reflection of a human being and reflection of the being of the society, as we know, always has a historical character. Historicity of the reflection of a man and a society is formed as a model of an existing understanding of the world and attitude to this world. Procedurality of understanding human existence in the world – existence of a human being and a society - thus always takes the form of awareness models, each of them having its beginning and its end. It concerns any acts or processes of lives of countries, individuals, states, etc.

The eschatological outlook is present in the explicit and implicit forms. Thus, it can be classified in accordance with the grounds under consideration. For example, if rational forms are taken as a basis for understanding the world, which involves interpretation, rationale, conclusions, etc., then the eschatological outlook will be presented through outlining the points of view related to the obligatoriness of the "end of the world" and appropriate "evidence." Here we mean that any form of rationality as such are finite thought-forms. Therefore, if they are taken as a basis for understanding the world, in this case the question of the finiteness of the world will definitely be "confirmed".

In the other case if in the basis of the world outlook there is an array of emotions accompanying the fear of death, non-existence, destruction or the like, then the eschatological outlook will be represented by irrational beliefs, as well as emerging conditions leading to mental pathologies. The philosophical outlook may be considered the third option of eschatological outlook. In the case of dialectical philosophical position the specificity of eschatological understanding of the world and, accordingly, the attitudes toward the world, will be defined in terms of consideration of the world as a self-perpetuating whole. At that, the meaning of the eschatological teaching as such disappears; it disappears in recognizing the transitory character of any existing form. Therefore, the need to define and consider in absolute terms any of its moments cease to exist.

Eschatological understanding of the world is of no independent nature. Since the acceptance of the finiteness is always "tied" to the thing whose finiteness is considered. The fact that eschatological teaching got a status of an independent teaching is a result of the separation of a corresponding ideological element from a holistic understanding of the world, in which this element has its own place, and being in the context of a holistic attitude toward the world, does not have a possibility to be considered in absolute terms. The philosophical idea of the end of the world can be considered this eschatological element. Once it emerged, this view does not leave indifferent all those who associate their understanding of the world with the emphasis of death, termination of the existence.

This ideological element is based on the prevalence of emotional aspect in the world outlook. Hyper-emotionality, in its turn, emerges in the case when a human life is realized in the deprivation of the current critical processes. Hyper - emotionality in relation to the world is an indication of a man’s "not being included” into human communication, which could become for a substantial support and a guarantee of salvation from depression and hopeless attempts to overcome the logic of the world procedurality.

The eschatological doctrine arises as a response of the public awareness to the problem of human existence expressed through a contradiction of the spiritual and the material on a global scale and through methods of its manifestations. As a phenomenon of social consciousness, eschatological doctrine acquires religious, ethical, political, and philosophical and other characteristics, and is actively transformed into a series of elements of the eschatological outlook and attitudes toward the world [4].

In the religious consciousness, as we noted above, the eschatological perspective is directly linked with faiths and cults of different religions. Every religion creates its own eschatological concept, which is designed to not only explain but also specify the boundaries of the possible existence of a man. In addition, the shaped systems of the cult actions are prescribed to the faithful as the way to solve the problems of the end of the (individual or collective), despair, death, etc. They act as guarantors that following them, a man gets the opportunity to overcome the finiteness of his existence, to prolong life indefinitely, although in different forms. The emphasis is made on the idea of the possibility of an endless of life, while the change of its form is the moment which people are willing to accept as a kind of concession-"another forms of life is still not a complete oblivion!"

The eschatological perspective is realized in the connection with the realization of the possibility and responsibility of a man in case he does not part from this life and in case his existence in life is temporary. This fully applies to the understanding of the status of good and evil, justice and injustice, etc. The problem of choosing a certain attitude to the world such is determined by either the first or the second option. As an example, we can recall the position and type of behavior of those who is here today and gone tomorrow." Pointing the way to the everlasting life, the eschatological doctrine externally helps to choose the attitude to the world based on the care of the eternal values of human existence - conscience, good, avoiding evil, sin, etc.

In the field of aesthetic consciousness eschatological doctrine and the corresponding position of perception of the world is expressed by a transformation of a human sensibility towards the "transcendence". Recognition of the possibility of the end, its approach leads to the sublimation of all forms of sensuality. First of all, it concerns the essential and content aspects of its manifestation. Famous sayings like "Beauty will save the world!", "See Paris and die!" and the like characterize the intensity of feelings characteristic of the situation of sublimation, triggered by the existence of border positions between the end and the salvation, between the immersion in the state of acquisition and the end of ...

In the political consciousness, eschatological attitude to the world also demonstrates its direct or reverse impact. Thus, for example, questions of the power of people, of public institutions, etc. are treated like transient phenomena that acquire their highest status only when they are consecrated by higher powers. A requirement for "transcendence" in politics is often used in the interests of certain political forces. The sublimation of the political power of people is used as an effective tool to achieve one’s own selfish goals. The finiteness of political forms, on the one hand, makes real people's wait-and-see position real, leads to the loss of activity and commitment. On the other hand, it can also give rise to a concentration of forces of supporters of certain events or actions, which will be a condition for the preservation of everything that was supposed to leave, for example, as something that outlived itself.

In philosophy, eschatological position usually manifests itself in the form of a series of reductions. Thus, the problem of the relation between continuity and discontinuity treats the existence of the end as ontologically determined and epistemologically fixed phenomenon. The reduction here is in the fact that the unity of continuity-discontinuity opposition is reduced only to the discontinuity, or termination, which is the end (albeit temporary) of everything that could be seen as continuous. "Elimination" of the opposition and the unity of continuity and discontinuity causes a number of philosophical, not only logical consequences, which are transformed also into ways of world perception.

The eschatological outlook contains not harmless reductions when there is "idealogization" in consideration of certain problems, or the approach in decision-making, or the position of individuals or social groups. This occurs, for example, when a meaning of individual or group actions get “finalized”. "Finalization" in this case is expressed by the substitution of the true purposes of the committed acts with the objectives attributed to individual doers or social groups. This attribution is accompanied by a significant decrease in social status committed acts.

The procedure of "finalization" means setting a limit to things that cannot have limits by the definition. "Finalization" sets the limit to the existing process. In this regard, it appears the universal way of reduction or the way of universal reduction. This means that "finalization" serves not only to stop certain processes but is a universal tool for deforming meanings, essence and content of what people want and humanity can and must learn in an adequate form. The only adequate form of cognition of the world procedurality is a procedural approach. The approach that is based on "finalization" of procedurality of what is being explored is initially focused on deformation, on getting nongenuine results, on the error.

The eschatological doctrine does not focus so much on the "finalization" procedure in understanding the world, but rather on how a man or the humanity perceives the possibility of the end of the world or life. Therefore, the deformation in the understanding of the world on the basis of the eschatological doctrine turn out to be in the shadow of a critical analysis. At the same time aspects of the value of life the problems of survival, etc. come to the forefront. Axiological aspects of human existence are important, but the eschatological emphasis built on "finalization" of the processes under consideration gives rise to the emotional distortions, deformations, pathologies, but does not contribute to the formation of a reasonable relationship to the expected events of a separate human life, and events of the end of the existence of a civilization.

All known forms of awareness include a "toolbox" of confrontation to the destructive influence of the problem and the threat of the end of human existence. These include not only religious and esoteric doctrines, but also ethical, aesthetic, political, and philosophical ones. Their influence and methods are different and depend on their own specificity: in religions these are religious activities, in politics - beliefs and participation in the political struggle, in the moral sphere - education, behavioral patterns, in the aesthetic sphere – perception of imperishable images of beauty, in the field of philosophy - "connection" to thinking at the level of mind, not reason.

Differentiation of the levels of understanding the world, which allows better navigation in the prospects of strengthening the eschatological position while solving pressing problems retains its value. Some of these levels of understanding the world will provoke people's loosing strength in the face of objective processes, others - on the contrary, will help to find necessary solutions and extend dignified human existence. The former include ordinary level of thinking and understanding the world.

It is known to be characterized by situatedness, haphazardness and abstractedness. Together, these properties can be described as properties of “finalization procedure”, of the lack of way out and solutions associated with the transformation of long-term problems into “here and now” problems. Such transformation can be viewed as positive, but it has negative features, consists in the fact, that global, serious problems are usually not solved by "improvised" means, means that are available “here and now”. At this level, it is almost impossible to find necessary decisions, but there are all grounds to get into panic or depression.

Other levels include are scientific and philosophical. Scientific level of thinking implies its own differentiation at the empirical and theoretical levels. Empirical level of thinking is based on performing a series of procedures concerning any problem. The eschatological perspective may also be viewed at this level. In this regard we shall speak, first, about collecting data concerning facts and factors indicating the approach of the end. Second, collected data should be subjected to processing by all available methods developed by the science, including the systems of processing information using mathematical methods. Third, processed data should be subjected to systematization and classification in accordance with essential parameters.

Fourth, the obtained data should be interpreted, systematized and classified in accordance with the chosen parameters. Interpretation can become a ground for forecasting expected phenomena associated with or leading to the end. The empirical level, however, can only provide a rough estimate, a proposition, though accompanied by references to the collected and processed material.

The theoretical level in the field of scientific consciousness involves identifying essential, significant, objective and repetitive relationships in the phenomenon under investigation. Their detection means revealing the patterns. With regard to the eschatological perspective, revealing consistent patterns may concern questions of its origin, which in this case is to express the scope of the humanities and some known ties to natural sciences. Here we speak, as noted above, about the unity and the properties, such as discontinuity and continuity characteristic of all natural processes.

Philosophical level is the level of universality, which reflects the orientation to the method of development the world as a whole. This level should remove the possibilities of all the previous levels of awareness. In relation to the eschatological perspective, the philosophical level involves identifying not only the availability of human reflection, cyclical processes of a common world and unity of its continuity and discontinuity, but, rather, “growing” of a human mind to understanding the unity of a man and the world. There is a need to perceive as “one’s own” everything that is characteristic of the laws of the existence of our world. Recognition of the unity of the world in this respect would mean absence of the necessity to search for external influences and ways to prevent everything, which is characteristic of the world. Proceeding from oneself and from the existing world as from oneself is, in a sense, a way of an adequate understanding of the prospects for the survival and historical assurance of the unity of the finite and the infinite.

The personal living through the characteristics of the world, in which a man lives, is an important feature of positive changes in the existing provisions in the nature and society. Existing global problems indicate the presence of an unacceptable degree of alienation of a man from the world in which he lives. This alienation becomes fatal. The origins of human alienation, depriving him of the ability to solve the problems of the world as one’s own and one’s own problems as the problems of the world emerge from serious distortion of the ties of a man and the world. These distortions, for the most part, are recorded in eschatological perspective. Ties of a man with the world depend not only on the world but also on a man, on forms and content of his activities, on the specificity of social relations, etc. Therefore, overcoming alienation that destroys a man and the world is associated with the need of a reasonable organization of the human existence, human activity and human relations. Distortions and deformations in this will always give rise to eschatological understanding of the world and related to it depression, attempts to escape from solving urgent problems, to find solutions in the sphere of illusions, from the state of helplessness and despair, from hopelessness and meaninglessness of the existence.

[1] Materials of this article were published in Russian in Eschatological Problems of Philosophy and Culture of the Russian Siler Age, Vol. 18: Proceedings of the International Research Conference, 2012 (Ed. V. Voznyak), Ivan Frank DDPU, 2012, p. 73-82.

[2] Eschatology (from the ancient Greek. Ἔσχατον - "the end", "the last" + λόγος - "word", "knowledge") is a system of religious views and perceptions about the end of the world, redemption, life after death, the transition to the afterlife, etc. For the origin of the term and its development see Yakimova, E.G. Eschatology Problem in Christianity: religious and philosophical analysis: dissertation abstract Tula, 2012; Historisches Wцrterbuch der Philosophie Herausgegeben von Joachim Ritter Vцllig neubearbeitete Ausgabe des «Wцrterbuchs der philosophischen Begriffe» von Rudolf Eisler. Band 2. Basel/ Stuttgart, 1972; Gerhard Sauter The Concept and Task of Eschatology - Theological and Philosophical Reflections// Scottish Journal of Theology. 1988. Vol. 41. P. 499-515.

Phenomenology and Eschatology: Not yet in the now / Ed. by De Roo N., Manoussakis J.P.-Farnham; Burlington (VA): Ashgate, 2009.

[3] See: Maslov, E.S. Origin and Concentration of Meaning of History in Eschatological Outlook // Academic Notes of Kazan University. Humanities, 2007. Vol. 149. Book. 5. pp. 146-159; Pigalev A.I. Eschatological Architypes in the Philosophy of History // State, Religion, Church in Russia and Abroad: Intormation and Analytical Bulletin. 2007. № 3-4 (40-41). М : RAGS, 2007. pp. 234-250. Bultmann R. History and eschatology. Edinburgh: The University Press, 1958. Akulova I.S. Ontological and Epistemic Foundations of Eschatological Perspectives in the Process of Philosophical Reflection on History: dissertation abstract. Magnitogorsk, 2008; Akulova I.S. Оntological Foundations of Eschatological Perspectives in the Philosophy of History. Omsk Research Bulletin. Series: Society. History. Modern Age. 2007. №5 (59). pp. 69-71 and others

[4] See: Eschatological Collection. SPb.: Aleteya, 2006; Nachala. М., 1992. №2; Social Knowledge: Theory and Practice: Collection of University Research Articles of MSTU; N. Ogarev MSU. Murmansk: MSTU, 2010. Vol. 3. pp. 139-154. Glazkov A.P. Eschatological history of Philosophy and its ontological and phenomenological measurement: Monography / Ed. Nizhnikova, S.A. - М.: INFRA- М, 2013.- 251 p.; Burkin, S.Y. Eschatological Thinking as a Source of Development of Modern Understanding of History //Tomsk State University Bulletin, Issue № 378 / 2014; Shestakov, VP. Eschatology and Utopia: Analytical Reviews of Russian Philosophy and Culture. М.: LKI, 2007 and others.

Table of contents: The Kazakh-American Free University Academic Journal №8 - 2016

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