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Valentyn Stetsyuk (Lviv, Ukraine)

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The Crisis of Liberal Humanism


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The lesson of history in this millennium now drawing to a close shows that this is the path to follow: it is necessary not to abandon the passion for ultimate truth, the eagerness to search for it or the audacity to forge new paths in the search. It is faith which stirs reason to move beyond all isolation and willingly to run risks so that it may attain whatever is beautiful, good and true.

(From the Encyclical Letter FIDES ET RATIO of the supreme pontiff John Paul II to the bishops of the Catholic church on the relationship between faith and reason. V. 56. Sep 14, 1998).







At the end of the first quarter of the twenty-first century, mankind is concerned about a pandemic of a disease caused by an unknown virus, which has not been previously detected in the modern history of mankind. The hope is that the disease can be brought under control, as happened with the infection caused by the acquired immune deficiency syndrome (AIDS), which also worried humanity forty years ago. However, the very appearance of such dangerous diseases can be regarded as a reaction to a general crisis in human society, the onset of which has long been anticipated by many thinkers. Two world wars have led them reason to doubt the progress that mankind has made in the last centuries. Despite the progress, due to the close interaction of science and business, which had the effect of creating a global culture, the number of unsolved problems on our planet is growing. Modern philosophers are united in the idea that the world is undergoing a global crisis, the essence of which is the loss of stability of the Humanity system, and the threats that this crisis is fraught with are such:


1. The presence and multiplication of various weapons of mass destruction, the first and foremost of which is nuclear weapons…

2. The growth of conflict between countries and the destabilization of the situation within countries…

3. Terror, in scale that surpasses everything that happened in the previous history of mankind, with the threat of terrorists taking possession of the same weapons of mass destruction or carrying out a terrorist attack with conventional weapons, but at objects like nuclear power plants, with consequences not inferior in scope to the use of weapons of mass destruction…

4.The destruction of the environment in various ways with the probability of unpredictable natural disasters…

5. Man-made disasters, which in the future, can be scaled to the consequences of atomic war or natural disasters caused by the destruction of the environment…

6. Periodic economic local and global crises that can provoke chaos, unrest and further development according to one of the previous scenarios…

7. A swift and ever-accelerating change in the reality in which we live. In recent decades, the pace of change has grown and continues to grow so quickly that the adaptive ability of mankind is in question… (VOIN A.M. 2016: 7-8)


These and other threats are gradually, but clearly beginning to appear in the world with increasing intensity:


A large (and growing) proportion of the population still lives in poverty and hunger; fertile soils are being depleted; pollution of land, air, and water adversely affects the Earth's inhabitants. As a result of global warming, the atmosphere becomes more turbulent, and many species of flora and fauna are dying at a rate which has not happened since the time of the Permian – the end of the Cretaceous period. The ability of the states to protect its citizens decreases as the activation of multinational organizations engaged in disorderly trade in goods and services. The extraordinary spread of information technology has led to the fact that someone's decision to invest or movement of capital is able to bring down the world markets and even sweep the government. Growing chaos in nature is accompanied by political chaos. On the stability and reliability can be no question, but in fact they were to be the result of scientific and technical progress. We suddenly found themselves on the brink of a dark age, far more dangerous than the Middle Ages, for the disintegration of a global nature (BRIAN GOODWIN, 2008: 48-49. Translation from Russian).


Most recently, the democratization of technology and information has led to a completely unpredictable consequence — the emergence of such a frightening feature of the modern world as the democratization of violence. If previously the state retained a monopoly on the legitimate use of force and such inequality in the use of force between the state and a person ensured order, in recent decades this state advantage has greatly weakened. Small groups of people are capable of carrying out large-scale terrorist acts that deal a serious blow to state power, making it difficult for it to focus on solving other problems, including those associated with the ever-increasing democratization of our lives.(ZAKARIA FAREED, 2004, 4).

Some scientists focus on other processes and phenomena being not so obvious, but so potentially dangerous to humankind that preclude the onset of a new "dark age" with the destruction of all modern cultures and civilizations. (FLECHTHEIM OSSIP K., 1988: 18. Translation fron German). The consequence of scientific and technological progress has been leveling of the individual, which is now dominated by features or consumer or producer. A man becomes an appendage of a machine with the appropriate for the machine its cultural and moral level.

Deeply and comprehensively considering the manifestations of the global crisis and reflecting on its causes, Alexander Voin comes to the following conclusion:


It is easy to see that, on the one hand, the basis of the global crisis is scientific and technological progress, which, providing humanity with enormous creative opportunities, also provides it with even greater destructive ones. On the other hand, the inability of modern mankind to foresee the long-term consequences of scientific and technological progress, as well as the inability of various groups of mankind: peoples, countries, parties, religions and other ideological trends to find a common language among themselves and negotiate peacefully. The latter is due to the lack of a unified morality and value system accepted by all mankind, which is another important factor contributing to the instability of the Humanity system. (VOIN S.M., 2016: 11).


Briefly defining this state of affairs, A.P. Nazaretyan characterizes it as a techno-humanitarian imbalance in which the means of cultural regulation does not correspond to the increased power of production technologies (NAZARETIAN A.P. 2004). Similarly, the American philosopher Chung-Ying Cheng looks at the environmental and economic crisis in the world as a consequence of the ethical crisis, which is “rooted in the absence and neglect of the integration of ethical values in human civilizations, as well as in the pursuit of the predominance of one useful forms of ethics over others, thus showing the loss of humanity – ideas about the foundations of ethical thinking"(СHUNG-YING-CHENG. 2019, 28).


In Europe, one complete ethical teaching like Confucianism never prevailed. Christian ethics was too general in nature and allowed for various interpretations. The variety of philosophical teachings corresponded to the multiculturalism of Europe and resulted in the implementation of only those new ideas that, in competition, were confirmed in practice and developed technological progress, but where practice was powerless, fruitful ideas did not find recognition, therefore, the techno-humanitarian imbalance in Europe developed from the Middle Ages :


Signs should also be gathered from the growth and progress of philosophies and sciences. Those that are founded in nature grow and increase; those founded in opinion change but not grow. Hence if those doctrines were not completely uprooted like a plant, but were connected to the womb of nature and nourished by her, what we see has been happening now for two thousand years would not be happened: the sciences stand still in their own footsteps and remain in practically the same state; they have made no notable progress; in fact they reached their pick in their earliest authors, and have been on the decline ever since. We see the opposite evolution in mechanical arts which are founded in nature and the light of experience; as long as they are in fashion, they constantly quicken and grow as if filled with spirit; at first crude, then adequate, later refined, and always progressing (BACON FRANCIS. 2002, LXXIV).


Whereas in the time of Bacon, university sciences lagged behind the development of technology, nowadays the main reason for the imbalance is a backlog of humanities from development of natural sciences, as it had a consequence of the spread of the phenomenon, called by Max Weber "Disenchantment of the world". The essence and the consequences of this phenomenon defined briefly as follows:


… scientific and technological progress and the growing influence of the natural sciences lead to a reliance on fundamental predictability and technical manageability of the world where gods and other unpredictable forces will be out of work. A selectively engaging God appears absolutely no longer plausible.(HOFFMANN JULIA. 2014: 1).


However, if we talk about faith in God and about his influence on people's behavior, then we should bear in mind that it does not spread to the bulk of them, wich have hardly retained anything but the image of him, never the Idea which also never touched them as the problem of the sin and personal salvation (BODRILLARD JEAN. 1983: 6). And this situation is also a new problem with ever-increasing democratization of human societies:


… it is not a question of mystification: it is a question of their (masses -VS) own exigencies, of an explicit and positive counter-strategy – the task of absorbing and annihilating culture, knowledge, power, the social. An immemorial task, but one which assumes its full scope today. A deep antagonism which forces the inversion of received scenarios: it is no longer meaning which would be the ideal line of force in our societies… (ibid, 11).


Thinking about such cardinal changes, we ask ourselves the question: where are we going and what will happen next? The German philosopher Rüdiger Lutz gave the following answer to this question: "The future is open, indefinite and ambiguously predictable, and this fact also gives us a chance" (LUTZ RÜDIGER, 2000: 9). Many scientists, including philosophers, sociologists, environmentalists believe that another psychology and a new morality can provide the salvation of mankind what can only be developed in the humanities.

Thus, to chart the way to the future, it is necessary first of all to overcome the techno-humanitarian imbalance due to the intensive development of the humanities sciences. To the realization of this need, an increasing number of thinkers will come and this process is already noticeable. In one of the latest works devoted to the future of science, the very content of the articles is indicative: "In the Shadow of Culture", "What Children Will Teach Scientists", "Toward a Theory of Moral Development", "The Future of Happiness", "What Is Life?", "Are We Going to Get Smarter?" [BROCKMANN John (Ed). 2008]. However, the task set for the humanities seems to be very difficult, looking at their current state:


Each of the humanities: philosophy, sociology, psychology, macroeconomics, etc., is divided into many schools between which there is no common language, and they are not only unable to agree on which of the competing theories is true, but as a rule, don't try to do it. As a rule, each school simply ignores the others [VOIN A.M. 2016: 19].


A reason for this state of the humanities and, as a consequence, a number of global problems is seen by Alexander Voin in the crisis of a rationalist worldview, in turn due to the crisis of classical rationalism. Overcoming this crisis is possible, in his opinion, within the framework of the theory of neorationalism that he developed, an integral part of which is a single method of substantiation in the field of the humanities and, in particular, to assess the degree of scientific nature of humanitarian theories. [ibid: 6].

Complaints on life and the idealization of the past, the expectations of the end of the world are not new in the history of mankind and have been accompanying it since times of deep antiquity. No such people existed, whose stories, passed down from generation to generation, would not contain attempts to forecast further fate of the people. Many thinkers of past centuries asked an answer for this question. But just as the past of mankind for a long time seemed to people in the fantastic world of myths and legends, the future was also fantastically imagined them either in the form of religious teachings about the "end of the world", either in the form of social utopia (BESTUZHEV-LADA I.V. 1968: 16). Even some outstanding thinkers of antiquity, when they looked into the future, saw only a terrible apparition of the catastrophe. According to de Chardin, an age-old man felt anxiety, because it is connected with thinking, and obviously anxiety helped him to eliminate the perceived danger in advance. On the other hand, social injustice, difficulties, problems of real life gave rise to dreams in the minds of individual thinkers about the bright future of mankind, which were formed into utopian theories. Thomas More, Tommaso Campanella, Henri Saint-Simon, Charles Fourier, Robert Owen can be reproached that there is more imagination than scientific thought in their works, but they can not be denied the lack of optimism and belief about the future of mankind. Such a positive approach to the problem led them to some ingenious conjectures that influenced the further development of socio-economic theories, although it can not be said that they did not lose some utopian traits.

However, those who undertake the search for ways to an excellent future must recognize that the primary task is to decide whether the history of mankind has any patterns that lead it to a specific goal. Isaiah Berlin believed:


The notion that history is subject to laws that are natural or supernatural, that every event of human life is an element in the final model and has deep metaphysical roots: this stream is fueled by the fascination with natural sciences, which, however, is not the only and in fact not fundamental source of it (ISAIAH BERLIN. 1994, 109).


Both the study of history and observations in the current life convince that future events are in any case determined by the past. The knowledge obtained in childhood influences the further life of a person; the capital accumulated by parents gives the best starting opportunities to their children; the language formed in the past influences the mentality of an individual people at present; practical experience in certain spheres of human activity facilitates the assimilation and realization of new achievements in science and technology.

Determinism as a doctrine of universal causation, interrelation and conditionality of all sorts of phenomena and processes in the universe is recognized by most thinkers and has been used in research, at least since Newton's time:


The great physical tradition of Newton had neceserilly been one of deteminism, where a pefect knowledge of the universe at one instant is understood to involve to prfect knowlefge of its history throughout all time (WIENER N. 2001: 26.)


Of course, it is impossible to predict the future in detail, especially since external influences occurring by chance take place. For example, the projectile flight path is predetermined by the direction of the gun’s barrel, the initial speed of the projectile, etc., but it can be changed by a sudden gust of wind or other random event. In addition, any process can be disrupted by changes in its ties. For example, during the operation of a certain machine, spontaneous wear of parts occurs. This is not an external impact, but in this case there is a change in the connections of parts, which violates the intended quality of the functions of the machine. In human society, many processes occur simultaneously, so accurate foresight for the distant future is impossible. However, in a well-functioning system, forces and influences act that return it to sustainable motion after deviations caused by external impacts (VOIN A. 2017). The latter property provides patterns in the development of certain processes, knowing which, one can predict their future. For example, the decline of the colonial empires of Great Britain, France, Belgium, etc. made it possible to foresee the collapse of the Soviet empire. The colonial period in the history of the backward peoples was caused just by external impacts, and gaining independence is a law that consists in the fact that a fairly large people comes to the creation of their own state ate one time.

Of course, it is impossible to predict the future in detail, but there are certain patterns in the development of certain phenomena, knowing which ones, one can predict the future of similar ones. For example, the decline of the colonial empires of Great Britain, France, Belgium, etc., enabled the foresight and collapse of the Soviet empire.

Therefore, if mankind is now in a state of a systemic crisis, that is, turned to a false path to develop, it is logical to assume that modern trends contradict some general line of its development which should lead it to a specific goal. Obviously, the path to this goal must be gradual and mankind follows this path and it is usually called civilization, which the Marquis Victor Mirabeau (1715-1789) defined as the assimilation by society of the foundations and forms of virtue (civilization). Such a worldview was a consequence of the internal logic of the development of European social thought in the Age of Enlightenment. The younger contemporary of Mirabeau, Johann Gottfried Herder (1744-1803), spoke in the same spirit, arguing that the ultimate goal of the existence of mankind should be the triumph of humanity (Humanität) as the unity of mankind in many distinct individuals. With this word he wanted to denote the noble process of the formation of a person's mind and the need for freedom, pure feelings and motives, good health, mastery of the Earth. That the humanization of human relations takes place was already noticed by ancient thinkers. For example, Plutarch wrote about times long past like this:


That age produced a sort of men, in force of hand, and swiftness of foot, and strength of body, excelling the ordinary rate, and wholly incapable of fatigue; making use, however, of these gifts of nature to no good or profitable purpose for mankind, but rejoicing and priding themselves in insolence, and taking the benefit of their superior strength in the exercise of inhumanity and cruelty, and in seizing, forcing, and committing all manner of outrages upon everything that fell into their hands; all respect for others, all justice, they thought, all equity and humanity, though naturally lauded by common people, either out of want of courage to commit injuries or fear to receive them, yet no way concerned those who were strong enough to win for themselves. (PLUTARCH'S LIVES. Volume I: 5).


Men with such psychology still exist, but they do not dominate society and this fact suggests that the process of humanization is very slow. At the same time, humanistic ideas are not directly related to the practice of human community or human intellectual development. Their traces are not visible in the history of the ancient civilizations of Mesopotamia and Egypt, but they can be seen in the teachings of Kǒng Fūzi (551-470), better known as Confucius. His philosophy is based on the principle of rén – a special kind of humanity, structured according to the law of justice , understood in accordance with the responsibilities of elders and minors in the family and society in a hierarchical manner, in respect of authorities, parents and teachers. The human quality zhì contributes to providing knowledge on how to realize such humanity, and the established cultural norm of behavior in a society organized on the principle of rén is characterized by the category . Thus, Confucius set an example of understanding human nature in a social aspect. In contrast, in Europe, since the time of J. Locke, the understanding of man as an autonomous unit of society has developed.

Confucianism was being the main ethical doctrine for Chinese intellectuals for many millennia and the main instrument of state governance due to the flexibility of its orthodox canons. Confucius’ doctrine evolved and its canons changed depending on the peculiarities of crises that accompanied the whole history of China. However, Confucianism always remained the central source of political, cultural, family, spiritual life in China (RYBACHUK SERGEY. 2018: 132).

The very emergence and spread of Confucianism, as well as the further development of Chinese philosophical thought, are connected with the peculiarities of the Chinese language, which is distinguished by logic and transparency. His unchangeable words without a grammatical gender and numbers are organized only by syntax and thus form a clear logical structure of the sentence (RYKOV S.Yu., 2018: 108). Chinese logic – "this is the logic of order, hierarchy and efficiency," with the fact that the socio-moral is transferred to all areas of being (ibid: 92).

Opinions about the course of the development process are different, but they are basically simplified and reduced to one dominant. For example, according to Yuri Pavlenko, "linear perspective of history passes through the Middle Ages (both Christian and Muslim) and in the form of various versions of the theory of progress… survive to the present day" (PAVLENKO YU. 2002, 9). In this definition, a lot is unclear and it can not be clear if the purpose of human existence is its humanization, the definition of which is generally vague. The humanism preached by Confucius is not comprehensive, it has to be defined more precisely as "structured humanism". Aristotle held exactly the same opinion when he spoke of right proportion which is only sometimes equality:


A father can repudiate his son if he is wicked, but a son cannot repudiate his father, because he owes him more than he can possibly repay, especially existence. In unequal relations, it is right, since everybody should be loved in proportion to his worth, that the inferior should love the superior more than the superior loves the inferior: wives, children, subjects, should have more love for husbands, parents, and monarchs than the latter have for them. In a good marriage, "the man rules in accordance with his worth, and in those matters in which a man should rule, but the matters that befit a woman he hands over to her" (1160b) [RUSSELL BERTRAND. 1995: 157).


Aristotle was an unquestioned authority in Europe for almost two millennia, and, obviously, under the influence of his ideas, Thomas Hobbes (1588-1679) developed the theory of the Social contract, in which he argued about the need for moral obligations of the authorities in relation to subjects, and parents in relation to to children. In response to this, children should love and respect their parents, and subjects should love and respect power more than ordinary members of the community. However, around the same time, numerous attacks on the doctrines of Aristotle began, and his thesis on the inequality of human relations began to be substantially revised. Accordingly, Hobbes's theory was rethought by Jean-Jacques Rousseau (1712-1778), who, in line with the development of philosophical and social thought of the Enlightenment, put forward the idea of popular sovereignty. This idea corresponded to the then moods of educated Europeans and nourished the French Revolution. As a result, European humanism gradually gained a fundamentally different, liberal character.


To make sure that humanization of mankind takes place and has a certain character, it is necessary to trace its development. Knowledge of the laws and causes of historical phenomena will more complete as if the period of the study on the development of mankind will be more wide, or more specifically, as if our knowledge of prehistory (of which we have no reliable evidence) will be deeper. The search for special methods of cognition of this period is exactly what Pope John Paul II spoke about. In its prehistory, man and human society developed organically according to God's plan, and people did not yet had sufficient opportunities to influence this process. The most important achievements of mankind, such as the invention of language and artificial tools, the use of fire, the discovery of one's own self-awareness and self-consciousness of other people were made precisely in antiquity. At the same time, speech was the most ancient achievement and precisely what was deeply rooted in our genetic heritage (POPPER KARL R., 1988, 37). The memory of the achievements of mankind is preserved in the myths and legends of many peoples. Accordingly, historical linguistics and mythology should answer how extent these human inventions were inspired by God. Humanities are lagging behind in their development, because they use outdated methods of research that do not correspond to the development of exact sciences.

The humanities have accumulated a huge amount of evidence, however, as A. Neklessa rightly remarked, "increasing the amount of knowledge here, as in the case of quantum mechanics, does not simplify, but complicates the picture of the world, making it more uncertain" (NEKLESSA ALEKSANDR. 2019). The inability of the humanities to come to the truth using existing knowledge leads to attempts to synthesize the humanities and sciences in the first place by using mathematical methods. However, the possibility of mathematizing the humanities is limited by the fundamental absence of a “quantitative measure for the vast majority of concepts” in them (VOIN A.M. 2016) and the lack of necessary methods in mathematics itself. The existing situation should change, as scientists predict a new flowering of mathematics in the next 50, both in its traditional sections and in the newly created ones. Among other things, by 2050 the emergence of a mathematical theory is predicted that describes the interaction and dynamics of complex systems. It will be used in the sciences dealing with a large number of relatively simple components that interact with each other in simple ways. Such complex systems arise in biology, financial activities, sociology, even in art and politics (STEWART IAN. 2008, 44-45). A similar system can be created also in linguistics to accurately determine the kinship relations of akin languages on the basis of a large mass of their common features. The graphoanalytical method was used to study such a system (STETSYUK V.M. 1987), which is based on the construction of a special graph that has not yet been studied in detail in theory, but which can previously be called "weighted." The results obtained using this method provided some basis for the considerations presented here.

The synthesis of humanities and sciences can be simplified by paying attention on the likelihood of similar processes occurring both in nature and in public life. One of them is the diachronic process of divergence, which is studied by various sciences. Just methods of such studies can be applied in the humanitarian sphere. A good example is the exploration of cosmic phenomena, which gives material for various ideas about the creation of the universe, in particular, for the development of the theory of a "big bang." At the heart of this theory is the extrapolation to the past of the phenomenon of the dispersal of galaxies discovered by the American astronomer Edwin Hubble. The method of extrapolation to the past is used in historical geology and paleontology for the same purpose – clarification of the question of the origin of the universe and life in it. By the way, here you will recall the words of a well-known physicist which can touch on any evolutionary processes:


We can not explain the modern picture of the universe if we do not have definite concept (or at least hypotheses) about the initial conditions for its evolution (SAKHAROV A.D. 1968, 74).


As in astronomy, for the study of written history, we can have a number of instruments, the application of which and the complementarity of the results obtained through them will allow us to compose a sufficient picture of the recent past. To answer the question of what was before the moment of maximum density, physicists are looking for tools for analyzing the accumulated observational data, the same is true for the reconstruction of prehistoric processes. Here the initial data are items of material culture of the ancients and a large number of languages, the roots of which go back to the prehistoric era. Combining the efforts of archaeologists and linguists can ensure the reproduction of the initial stage of ethnogenetic processes, but if archeology has found methods of studying ancient cultures, then linguistics is only at the stage of their search.

It is not easy for a person to part with traditional views and habits, he is characterized by inertia of thoughts and behavior. In order for radical changes in human society to occur, recognized and influential authorities must reinterpret the world around him and the person in it, departing from the mechanistic notions about them that formed in the previous historical era.

Ideas originated in Europe are perceived and spread all over the world, and in Europe they develop and acquire new forms. However, in the present, Europe is experiencing a certain moral crisis and it can be assumed that some old, but brought to extremes and absolutized ideas have acquired a threatening to the world civilization.


As we nervously approach the end of the millennium, there is ever more confusion and misgivings. It seems that Europeans (no matter how they mean them) are completely lacking in confidence that namely ultimately should be the subject of their loyalty, and they do not understand the most desired level of effectiveness of power, sovereignty and citizenship: the city, region, national state or newly formed European Confederation (HEFFERNAN MICHAEL. 2011: 9-10).


Despite the fact that the signs of a systemic crisis are becoming increasingly obvious, in order to avoid it, no serious efforts are being made by the authorities of the leading states of the world. All sorts of meetings of influential people of the world, aiming at influencing national politics and international affairs, pay more attention to the world economy, finance and the latest technologies. For example, representatives of social and humanitarian professions are not even invited to meetings of the Bilderberg club.

Under current conditions in world politics, people of a new category who profess not only material values should play a more influential role. Arguing about the emergence of a new man in the spirit of the Buddha, E. Fromm wrote about the possibility of a massive change in the human nature under such conditions:

1. We suffer and realize it.

2. We understand the causes of our suffering.

3. We understand that there is a path that can free us from our suffering.

4. We realize that in order to be free from our suffering, we must follow certain norms and change the existing way of life.

Further he proposes the structure of a person’s character with a whole range of new qualities. However, the very creation of conditions for a massive change of a person is possible only if a new person with the proposed structure of character (FROMM ERICH. 2010: 180-184). It is strange that E. Fromm does not see a vicious circle in his reasoning. All the more strange that he does not take into account the psychology of the masses. (LE BON GUSTAVE. 1951).

Agreeing that the future of mankind is completely uncertain, it can not be ruled out that soon the leading role in the world will be played not by Europeans, or even Americans, but by the peoples of other continents, who hold a world view different from the European tradition, but does not contradict the ideas and plans of God. Understanding the patterns of development of individual components in the spiritual sphere of different peoples on the basis of an analysis of their background can help to predict the future of mankind and make the necessary adjustments both to the bases of public behavior of an individual and to the planning of the development of individual peoples by their intellectual elite.





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