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Lecture 7

European philosophy of the XIX-XX centuries

The aim of the theme is: to familiarize students with a specific character and tendencies of the development of the late XIX-XX centuries Western philosophy, to underline common features of the basic philosophical trends and currents of the period and to define the place, role and significance of basic non-classical philosophical conceptions in the historical and contemporary contexts. Key words of the theme: irrational, "will to life", "will to power", philosophical anthropology, existentialism, existence, positivism, psychoanalysis, Neo-Freudizm, human existence, freedom, unconscious, communication, "communicative action".

7.1. General Characteristics of XIX-XX Centuries’ Philosophy. Historical Social and Cultural Grounds for Its Development

Having got the highest point in Hegel’s theory gnosiologism could not stimulate the development of philosophy any longer. The only possible way to go forth seemed to overcome gnosiological problems of man’s essence and to come for researching the problems of his existence.

Philosophies that were in revolt against traditions were of two kinds, rationalistic and romantic. They gave the ground to two great philosophical streams, neo-classical and non-classical philosophy.

The standpoint of neo-classical philosophy was the idea of identity of divine and humane, providing the importance of personality. Instead of mere cognizing the Universe human tried to alter it but within his own change. The ideas of religious overcoming of gnosiologism became the basic for such philosophies as Personalism and Religious Existentialism.

Non-classical philosophy aimed to research man embodied in flesh, one who possessed plenty of passions and instincts, who was eager for love. This philosophy was pioneered by Feuerbach and opened such philosophical positions as Sociocentrism, Voluntarism and Psychoanalysis which appeared in the XX century.

Non-classical philosophy of the XIX-XX centuries attempted to reveal the basics of human life burdened with sufferings and pains in unconsciousness that they expressed as transcendent, first impersonal and later illusive and symbolic standpoint. With the time passing this tendency would come to the statement of absurdness of human life.

The difference between classical and non-classical philosophy lies mainly in philosophical approach to general and individual in human. Non-classical philosophy is oriented on individual dominating over general, the problems of human existence over theoretical awareness. The human being instead of Universe being was set into the focus of its interests. Another fundamental difference is concerned their understanding of transcendental (Transcendental everything that goes beyond the borders of experience. In Christian culture it was God and immortal soul striving to him). In classical philosophy transcendental is a peculiar being that gives rise to empirical reality, being either estranged or identified with it. Classical philosophy insisted on the ontological character of transcendent.

Non-classical philosophy replacing transcendental with a real being regards it as a symbol expressing realities of human mental and material life. It gives it the character of imaginations and illusions. That is why non-classical philosophy is oriented on the human existence in empirical world as the only valuable reality.

Historical and cultural grounds of contemporary philosophy are as following:

1. Scientific and cultural revolution of the XIX-XX centuries opened great perspectives in understanding nature, cosmos and humanity, but simultaneously it stimulated such global problems as ecological, demographical, economical, energy, raw materials etc.

  1. Philosophy was faced the necessity to regard the basic philosophical problem of man’s relation to the world in a new historical atmosphere, to refresh main ideas of classical philosophy that is of ultimate belief in human reason as the basic principle of realizing the world structure, his understanding social progress as the progress of human reason, and social organization of people as a reasonable organization.

  2. Modern scientific and technical revolution ruined the classical Newtonian picture of the world. The crisis phenomena of social life, in particular two world wars of the XX century, the existence of totalitarian regimes in some countries undermined man’s faith into powerfulness of human reason, of progress.

  3. The tendency against classical rationalism was being spread in philosophy. The accent was brought on irrational aspect of reality. The essence of the Universe was not regarded in reason any longer but in extra reasonable World Will, which was primary as for reason and imagination (A. Schopenhauer).

The common features of contemporary philosophy.

The basic philosophical problem “Man in his relation to the world” aimed at clearing out man’s essence, his place, role and significance in the world, and the influence of the world upon man acquired a new specific content. Our epoch has got a global character. The globalization is evident in four main forms that are as the following:

1. Despite their great diversity philosophies of the end of the XX century seem to represent the integral whole. This integrity means that the problems researched by various philosophical schools are the same. One can see the solution of these problems in common branches, though highly specific in their content that is: philosophy of history, philosophy of ecology, philosophy of peace, philosophy of culture, philosophy of morality, philosophy of spirituality etc.

2. The global character of contemporary philosophy is manifested in the total contradictoriness of doctrines, that is, the West and East, the West and Eurasia, the West and Africa, European and American mode of thinking, the West and Post-Soviet paradigm, imperial and independent tendencies.

3. Modern globalization provides legal self-approval of national specificity of any philosophical doctrine. The basic philosophical idea emphasizes: every nation aspires to sovereignty and to be able to choose its own way of development and self-realization.

4. Globalization of the XX century philosophy has got the highest top in man’s understanding his own historical mission, his uniqueness, his role and significance in the development of history. All various doctrines meet at the point that just man is both the source and the creator of good and evil. Trying to define the criteria of good and evil different philosophical schools go their own ways, but there is the universal criterion that is the harmony of the “Man - the World” relation, which is concretized by various philosophies in different forms: Man – Nature; Man – God; Man – Society; Man – Epistemology etc. As a result of such preferences new philosophical brunches appeared namely, Phenomenology, Personalism, Epistemology, Structuralism, Hermeneutics etc.

The basic tendencies in the development of the present day’s philosophy are as the following:

1. Analyzing the world experience of the traditional society and technological civilization philosophy regards man as a particular type of activity in the world directed towards two opposite vectors: on the one hand inward the self including self-contemplation, self-realization and self-control and on the other hand, outward the self that is towards ultimate altering society, nature, man himself. Philosophy contrasts existential values and man’s rationality underlining their integral unity and interaction.

  1. Reciprocal influence of national cultures and philosophies upon each other, interaction of modes of thinking and philosophizing. Each philosophical system seems to realize national, regional and social problems through the attitude to both national traditions and all modern philosophy. The significance of philosophy as of the universal integrator of culture is growing.

3. The present-day philosophy is characterized by the tendency of seeking the means to approve and strengthen national cultures and philosophies, national self-realization and sovereignty in philosophical systems.

4. The most powerful tendency is to approve philosophy as a planetary thinking. Theoretical philosophy stimulates the development of a new practical philosophy entitled “Global thinking – local activity” aimed at the development of human reason. Contemporary philosophies are the best manifestations of this tendency.

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