Does modern philosophy have any future? Philosophical essay

Table of contents: The Kazakh-American Free University Academic Journal №11 - 2019

Author: Kossichenko Anatolij, Doctor of Philosophy, Professor, Chief Researcher Institute of Philosophy, Political Science and Religious Studies of the National Academy of Sciences of Kazakhstan, Kazakhstan

It is true that modern philosophy is in decline. There are no meaningful philosophic approaches, let alone philosophic systems. All these are a thing of the past. Why? Perhaps, it has always been so. Philosophic systems have always been much to seek while we believe there were lots of them just because a great deal had been worked out for four thousand years and given to us as an output? In other words, much had been done because of long time. However, if you break down this much by time you will see that philosophy's 'productivity' has always been quite low. This idea is attractive, yet wrong. Over the span of antiquity, the greatest philosophers had worked almost at the same time. So they did in the German classics epoch. The same can be said about late 19th through early 20th century. They had worked hard and performed well, while nowadays there is nearly nothing.

There is no philosophy today in its classical meaning. No big philosophic systems. There is just 'philosophising' on this or that occasion. Such 'philosophising' makes philosophy small and insignificant. This is not philosophy as such already, but rather some idle speculations that may use certain philosophers' phrases. Degradation of philosophy was preceded by degradation of human, which is quite natural, for it is human's real life, his/her problems, and means of resolving those problems that, to a large extent, represent philosophy's subject matter. Therefore, as human life degraded, philosophy degraded as well. That did not happen at once: there was some inertia in philosophy's evolution, but it almost lost the right to be named philosophy pretty soon.

Philosophy lost its substantive unity. It became now philosophy of policy, now philosophy of culture, now philosophy of religion, and after all started attending upon the specific sciences. This fact improves those sciences' theoretical component and methodological content. However, philosophy as such loses its own intrinsic content. Of course, philosophy had been a servant before as well: for instance, it attended upon theology, but that service was raising philosophy, while currently its being a servant implies losing its grounds, giving up on its position in culture and on worldview fundamentals of human's being. Philosophy may not be a 'philosophy of policy', although there were big philosophers (for instance, A. Panarin) who made policy the subject for philosophical analysis, with political science having greatly benefitted from that. Yet it must be admitted that this is not philosophy as such any longer.

Nowadays, philosophic reflection over being has grown weaker. Some might think this is characteristic of life in post-Soviet countries: hard times, time to survive not to live, that's why there is no philosophy, as the latter is allegedly an excessive being, a glamour of being. Nothing of the kind. There is no philosophy today in the West either. It turns out that the problem is universal, not ours only. Previously, philosophers were trying to explain to people how they should live, how they need to rise above everyday routine. Today, everyday routine prevails. It is nearly only routine left, with nothing more around. Everyday routine has oppressed everything around us, including philosophy. Being's energy has exhausted. Being is becoming thin like a spider web, as the well-known saying goes. Modern world does not need any justification of its existence. It just exists and it is as good for itself as it is. What the world must be - this issue is of interest for very few people. There are no ideal projects for being. There is no philosophy therefore.

What ideas derived from summarizing the modern reality can be suggested by philosophy today so that to formulate them as essential for human? We ask this question because it would be possible to restore philosophy's significance right this way. It should be admitted that modern reality in its mass forms is not comprehended by philosophy. Why? Because philosophy, for its own existence, should refer to rather universal real-life processes that need to be philosophically conceptualized. However, the modern mass processes can fairly well get along without some even remotely conscious attitude thereto. Today, 'real life' does not need philosophy, and the latter is too far from life's priorities and values. This proves that the importance of sense of purpose of life has been lost. Historically, mankind has always, down to our days, been striving to comprehend life purpose - much in history is because of just such aspiration. Nowadays, in contrast, there can be seen the abandonment of human meaningful existence. People at large live in a haphazard way, very few of them having a meaningful purpose of life, moreover, a purpose worthy for a human.

It is known that in antiquity, people used to argue on philosophical subject matters in the town squares. It would be too much to say that philosophy constituted people's whole existence, but it was one of their true-life priorities. The philosophers had been then teachers of life (this situation is depicted in a concentrated way in Socrates' Life). Currently, hardly anybody is interested in philosophy. It is a bad omen for modern civilization. To speak of modern civilization conceptually, we need to admit that 'most likely, mankind will keep evolving this way: its every step will be controversial; non-obviousness of successes and failures will become customary; instability will be taken as something inevitable, inconsistency of intents and results becoming a norm. This is sad, and proves the loss of sense of due, but it is true. If people lose human essential characteristics - freedom understood as responsibility; conscience as voice of God in a human; imperative of moral attitude to all what's happening; willingness to make sacrifices, compassion - if they lose human virtues such as faith, hope and charity(all these have, no doubt, been lost), lose everything human, they must not expect that everything would be all right with no problem and that they can achieve their aims without properly setting them and with no effort. As the ancients used to say in such cases, 'fortune leads the willing one and drags the one who does not have will'. Therefore, if mankind has come to moral degradation, lost its sound historic sense and ability to meaningful self-actualization of the future, well, then it will have to be 'dragged' yoked by circumstances, against its will' [1].

Today, there is no need to implement the concept stating that 'an idea becomes a force once it takes control over the masses', which necessitated generating meaningful ideas as such.  Masses can be driven anywhere without any big ideas, just through manipulative social technologies. Therefore, there is no need to put forward the ideas, including of philosophic nature, but it is better to work out some technologies to exercise control over masses using people's most primitive and even base longings. Philosophy might be needed to that end, yet in its basest forms. Perhaps, the end of time is coming, and people should do all necessary and most important, and philosophy is neither most important nor most necessary. It is not improbable. In any case, the philosophy that exists today is surely not needed. But what is most important and most necessary? The most important thing is to attain salvation. Does philosophy help save soul? Previously, people believed it does. Now they doubt it. And many are sure it does not, and even hinders: it fouls up, deceives, misleads. Very likely so. Lots of false problems, ideas, including those generated by modern pseudo-philosophy.

It appears that philosophy will only become really needed (needed, it's clear, not in pragmatic sense, but in noble, authentic sense), when it becomes just what a human needs for - the last shelter, last hope. A human needs to rely upon something, and here it is - philosophy: last shelter, last hope. If philosophy can be that, then it will keep existing, if not - well, then as the word is, c'est la via. How can philosophy turn into that? N. Berdyayev believed that, to be vitally important, philosophy would have to abandon the refined and extremely rational forms and make use of some other methods to explain the essence of being, such as religion. 'Religion can get along without philosophy; its sources are absolute and self-sufficient, while philosophy can not do without religion: it needs religion like food, like source of living water. Religion is philosophy's vital basis; religion feeds philosophy with real existence' [2].

 And it was N. Berdyayev who did such work: he took from theology some concepts that were few but extremely informative (freedom, for instance) and introduced those concepts into philosophy, having partly re-formulated them philosophically. As a result, philosophy, no doubt, was enriched, yet it fell away from a number of its criteria, for instance, from rationality. N. Berdyayev thus brought into philosophy the temptation of giving up on strict logic for the sake of deepness in understanding the problems - even to the disadvantage of argumentativeness of resolving thereof. N. Berdyayev pretended he did not see any difference between human's existence ontology dealt with by philosophy and human's existence ontology seen by religion. While in religion human's timeless essence traces its origin to the idea that God created a human, thus having pre-determined his essence, in philosophy human ascends to his essence in the process of evolution. Therefore, you may not just take from theology some most important theological concepts and put them into philosophy: this will replace one existential reality for another. Yet such reality is fairly different in philosophy vs theology.

However, N. Berdyayev was absolutely right saying that philosophy should change cardinally so that to remain in mankind's arsenal as a meaningful phenomenon. Religion should be born in mind, too, as philosophy's 'vital force', because there is some essential unity of philosophy and theology.  This unity dates back to the indiscrete unity of antique thought when myths encompassed both philosophy and science and theology. Therefore, when philosophy looks into its other sources (non-philosophic ones) of evolution, it implicitly appeals exactly to the syncretism that had existed in ancient times. And when philosophy makes use of theology it partly returns to that period of syncretism. To what extent such making use is reasonable - that is another story. Very likely, philosophy has lost the right to appeal to the indiscrete unity of representing being in thinking. Too long distance from that unity has been covered by philosophy, with too specific content having been accumulated for the time that has passed since then. Nevertheless, philosophy is trying to gain insight into the 'last fundamentals', the essence of things, the internal regularities of being. Philosophy as love of wisdom cannot settle upon the successes made by human mind; wisdom integrates both mind and spirituality. Philosophy aspires to go beyond just cognitive attitude to reality and touch upon the spiritual issues. That is, in its intention philosophy is close to theology which, by definition, speaks of God who is not cognizable at all. To the extent that philosophy tries to perceive the 'last fundamentals', it gets closer to theology, since the last fundamental is God. Therefore, the issues concerning the relationship between philosophy and theology should be explored deeper.

Here we will look into the way of future evolution that is more natural for philosophy. Philosophy should stop being philosophy in its former meaning.  It needs to die, disappear in its usual sense that has already become mediocre for people who are in despair and therefore clearly seeing. Philosophy should become a different thing. It is the more so because there is no other way out - it is not needed as it is now. It taught that if a seed does not die then a spike will not upspring, so it needs to change radically. Philosophy must teach, but not to the sublime, since there is no positive result. It must teach to some other thing, and do it with taking responsibility like Guru or Christian saints: an apprentice confides in the saint and the saint leads him through life. This is possible. Indeed, all people suspect or feel or even know that the meaning exists, that it cannot be missing, that existence is not meaningless, not casual. Reaching this meaningfulness, comprehending it, streamlining somehow - this is something that could be offered to people. In this way philosophy can become teacher similar to those from the East or to the saints, which is hard but not impossible. Philosophy will have to do its best - this is obvious, but there is no other way. Indeed, guru of the East did not emerge easily and at once, to say nothing about saints. A saint does spiritual work beyond all reason. It is even not work, nothing can be reached with work. Then what is it? Some other status, other tension? No, not tension - it must be something light, happy, heavenly, non-burdening. Jesus Christ used to say: 'my yoke is good and my burden is light' - but is it light with tears of blood? In a word, joyfully, easily and having given oneself up - this is the way to success, the absolute, authentic, the last success. Can philosophy do so, and what's the main, does it need this? If not (and it is very likely that not), then 'go ahead, you're your own boss'. But, actually, philosophy needs to do its best. It is the more so because otherwise the end will come. Of course it will, but because it will we need to do our best. It may seem that this logic leads to pessimism. If so, and if the end will surely come, then what's the use of making efforts? But, as was said above, no need for tension just is joyful and merry, and even jump with exaltation like Prophet and King David was jumping in front of the ark of the covenant, - is this pessimism? On the contrary, this is optimism, and it is a real optimism, ontological one. Surely, philosophy can do it, who else can be imposed that hope on? 

More than likely, today's crisis of philosophy, like the crisis of anything else, is a crisis leading to rehabilitation. Crisis like judgment, and judgment like implementation of truth - such is the motion vector, including for philosophy. Otherwise what was the purpose for such a long and hard road it has passed both over the body of history and over the space of meanings? Indeed, if there is no time but there is eternity, if there is no absurd but there is meaning, if there are no losses but there are only gains, then who should deal with this, foresee this and exhaust this if not philosophy? Now that it has started dealing with wisdom, then it must go higher. It is this 'high' material that the already former philosophy was made of in its authentic form and content - we mean right this when we say 'there was philosophy indeed'. There was and will be. Yet now there is not somehow... But the crisis as a perception of the future, like joy and light, the crisis gives hope.


1. Kossichenko A. Human Being Facing Globalization Challenge // Kazakhstani-American Free University Bulletin. Academic periodical. 4th issue: political & legal issues of education and society. ' Ust-Kamenogorsk, 2018. ' 197 pp. P.15.

2. Berdyayev N. Liberty Philosophy. ' Kharkov: Folio; M.: 'AST Publishers' LLC, 2002. ' 736 pp. ' (Human Thought Peaks). P. 35.

Table of contents: The Kazakh-American Free University Academic Journal №11 - 2019

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