On the search for the meaning of war
The world war, which was imposed on the Russian state from the outside, against its will, was even much more unexpected for public opinion and in a certain sense took by surprise the prevailing and prevailing mentality of the intellectual circles of society. In Germany, public opinion has been persistently and systematically educated for decades in the idea of war, in understanding the necessity and national importance of war; almost for all, without exception, German citizens - starting with children who had “playing the soldiers” was put up as a serious educational matter, and ending with many scholars and public figures who consciously dedicated themselves to promoting the expansion of the military power of the country , understandable, popular, rooted in the very basics of the worldview. Events have shown that sharply opposition circles of German society in this respect were no exception.
Quite different in Russia. For a variety of reasons that we will not touch,the war seemed to the average Russian thinking man to be something abnormal, unnatural, incompatible with all the usual ideas and therefore something almost impossible. The alarming signs of the thickening of the political atmosphere were still not felt in all their terrible reality, and the idea that all the usual, seemingly eternal forms of peaceful cultural life could suddenly disappear and be replaced by fierce and ruthless international massacres seemed almost as incredible as Earth's collision with a comet.
Fortunately for us, this unpreparedness of our intellectual worldview for war had no practically harmful consequences, because it was pushed into the background somewhere and deprived of effective meaning by others who suddenly and with spontaneous power awakened the beginning of our spiritual life: the healthy instinct of national consciousness , the immediate unanimous rush of national will. Regardless of all our reasoning and thoughts, this war was immediately and with unshakable certainty perceived by the very element of the national soul as a necessary, normal, terribly important and indisputable in its legitimacy case.
But this disagreement between the immediate national feeling and the dominant concepts of our world view — a disagreement whose spiritual fruits are unlikely to have affected all their significance — put us in urgent need and for the most painfully difficult task of justifying the war, finding its moral meaning. By this we do not want to say that the very question of “justifying a war” can be explained only from this psychological situation. These psychological conditions explain only why this question in Russia is of heightened interest and is painfully experienced by a very wide circle of people. From an objective point of view, this question retains its significance, there is a genuine historical and philosophical problem, of course, completely irrespective of the reason for which it attracts attention.
The following brief considerations, inspired by significant and interesting reflections on the meaning of war expressed by members of the Moscow Religious-Philosophical Society, do not have the task of giving any final solution to the essence of the issue of the meaning of the world events we are experiencing.They have a much more modest goal - to outline some general conditions for a correct decision and, thus, to warn against unilateral or improper coverage.
The question of the justification of war, of its objective, universal human sense encompasses one fundamental antinomy, one necessary interweaving of heterogeneous and colliding motives. To justify a war is to prove that it is conducted in the name of a just cause, that it is conditioned by the need to protect or implement any objectively valuable principles in human life. But objectively valuable means valuable equally to all. Thus, to justify a war means to find such grounds that are obligatory for all. But since the war started and is being fought by each of the fighting sides, obviously for opposite reasons, so that one side actually considers what is evil to the other, it means for each of the fighting sides to see the truth on their side and lie - and thus the evil or, at least, blinded will - on the side of the enemy. If it were a question of relative truth, of justification from the point of view of one’s private interests, then there would have been nothing else to say.And there are many people who deliberately stop at such a relative point of view and the search for absolute truth in this matter is considered either metaphysics in the bad sense of the word, or even the lack of immediate, healthy patriotic feeling.
Each side defends its interests, and for each its interests are an indisputable, self-evident, absolute good, and everything else is just empty talk. Such a point of view has a certain amount of truth in it. Its moral value lies in the fact that it precisely delimits the relative truth from the absolute, that is, it purifies selfishness from the false halo of absolute value that is often attached to it, and emphasizes the ability to defend its interests, while maintaining respect for the enemy, without necessarily blind self-exaltation and vilification of the enemy. However, it is precisely at this point of view that it is impossible to resist. Without faith in the absolute objective moral value, and not only the relative, utilitarian-egoistic value of its goal, the self-sacrifice and tension of the effective will, which is necessary in such a difficult and painful matter as war, is psychologically impossiblenor — more importantly — moral responsibility for participating in the scourge of war.
Therefore, this skeptical relativism is effectively turned into its own opposite; the idea of relativity of evaluation disappears from consciousness, the will entirely concentrates on the interests of only its own, assigns to them absolute value, and then there arises that Hottentot morality, for which its own benefit is already thereby, without any particular justification, absolute good, and alien benefit is absolute evil. There is no need to clarify the inconsistency of this position. How can you demand from the opposing party a refusal to protect its egoistic interests, since egoism has been elevated into an objective principle? Obviously, the justification of war cannot be based on anyone’s private interests, but must be based on the interests or benefits of humankind, which are equally valuable and obligatory for all. You can justify a war only by citing such arguments with which the enemy would be obliged to agree. Of course, in fact, that is, psychologically, there is no hope of achieving general recognition for any justification for war.Obviously, during the war itself, the consciousness of one side - the one that is mistaken - will be captive of this error and will be immune to the truth. But this does not in the least change the fact that the truth itself in this question, as everywhere else, is only one, that is, the same for all. And this truth will triumph when the time of blinding passes. In anticipation of this time, each of the parties has the right to believe in its own right, since she sincerely believes that she has discussed the issue in good faith and impartially. But the real, true truth, of course, is only one, and we, for our part, believe and are convinced that it is on our side, that it is we, and not our opponents, who are fighting for a just cause and for the destruction of evil.
But here a difficulty arises, by virtue of which that antinomism is revealed in the problem of justifying a war, about which we spoke above. If to justify a war means to show who is right and who is to blame, who is the spokesman for the beginning of good and who is the beginning of evil, then to what extent and in what sense can the nation recognize itself as a whole carrier of the evil principle to be destroyed? We say “may” again not in a psychological sense.We raise the question: can the nation, from the objectively-moral side, recognize itself as the spokesman of evil, that is, is there at all such a position in which the nation is obliged and entitled to come to this conclusion? Since this means that the nation must recognize itself as a whole, that is, the very essence of its existence and its will, the evil to be destroyed, the question raised obviously only allows a negative answer. If an individual already has not only duties, but also the right to humiliate himself, to acknowledge his being, the very substance or entelechy of his life as evil and put up with his destruction, then all the more - the whole nation. Not only actually, but also morally, the nation cannot consider its being a misunderstanding, recognize the peculiarity of its life and will, creating from it precisely a special nation with its own special interests and assessments, an evil that does not find justification in the face of universal truth. This, apparently, is clear by itself and does not require special evidence; However, this situation in a certain sense is faced with the task of objectively justifying a war, from which it follows that one side - precisely the wrong one - is obliged to recognize its cause, its national will wrong.
This is precisely the antinomy in the problem of justifying a war that we wanted to mention. This antinomy, of course, is not insoluble, that is, in the strict sense of the word, it is not an antinomy. But she points to the intertwining of diverse moral motives in this problem, and it is clear from her which solution to the problem should be recognized in advance as false. Namely, any justification of war, the meaning of which is reduced to the fact that the very essence of one of the contending parties is recognized as an expression of absolute good, and the other as an expression of absolute evil, must be recognized in advance as false. In this, we think, the main defect of the Slavophil concept of war, which is developed mainly in the speeches of S. N. Bulgakov and V. F. Ern. We leave aside all side questions here. We don’t even touch upon the easily bewildering perplexity of how the war, in which France and England stand on our side, can still be described as the struggle of Russia against the West or — regarding the similar philosophical concept of Ern — a similar doubt: if the source of evil with which we fighting in this war, there is “immanentism” and “phenomenalism” of Germanic thought, then how are we to deal with the related currents of positivism and empiricism among our allies, England and France?
In general, we exclude from the discussion all party, journalistic and philosophical debates, however important they may be in themselves. We take this "Slavophile" construction only in its general plan. Essentially, Ern's speech, by the way, does not even correspond to its effective title: “From Kant to Krupp”; it should have been called From Meister Eckhart and Luther to Krupp. This means: "From the essence of the German national culture - or, as Ern says, from the German idea - to Krupp, that is, to all the evils of modern Germany." We again put aside all the historical, scientific - to put it mildly - the dubious nature of this construction, for example, inexplicability from this point of view, why now, six hundred years after Meister Eckhart, evil first appeared in practice, whose roots have such a long history. We pay attention only to one thing: the conclusion from this understanding, no matter whether it is expressed or not, is reduced to the recognition that the very essence of the German spirit, the German genius, is the evil against which we fight in this war and which we want to defeat. Can such an understanding be objectively true at all? Regardless of the fact that no war, no matter how successful it may be,nor can it exterminate the German people themselves, or thereby their national identity, such a religious understanding is blasphemous; it means condemnation, recognition of the very foundations of national existence as being useless, whereas all national existence - like the existence of an individual personality - in its last roots, in its very being must be thought of as one of the manifold manifestations of the Absolute. Such a concept, which finds the source of evil in the very basis of the adversary’s national spirit, cannot be anything other than a false absolute sanction of its subjective bias; for the adversary, it is inevitably unconvincing, for no one can and should not renounce itself, recognize its nationality as evil. Moreover, for the Germans there could be no better justification than understanding that their behavior, the current direction of their will and consciousness is directly substantiated in the essence of their national outlook and religious and moral consciousness: for each nation as a person has the highest covenant: "Realize yourself!"
The conclusion that follows is clear on its own: finding the meaning of war, whatever it is,should be subject to the general requirement that the truth in the name of which the war is being waged is truly universal, equally necessary not only for us, but also for our opponent. We must understand this war not as a war against the national spirit of our adversary, but as a war against the evil spirit that has mastered the national consciousness of Germany, and thus as a war for the restoration of such relations and concepts, under which the free development of European culture in all its national expressions. We must look for the idea of war only in that our opponents themselves will be able and will have to admit when their eyes open and they will understand the fallacy of thought and will into which they have fallen. This, of course, does not mean that it is impossible to search for the deeper historical and spiritual roots of this delusion, that the phenomena of evil that modern Germany personally detects should be recognized as historical accidents or responsibility for them should be placed only on certain people. No, this is undoubtedly the evil will, for which the entire nation is responsible, and not only in its present generation.
Tracing the spiritual sources of this evil will is not only historically interesting, but also practically necessary for understanding the true meaning of the transmitted events; in speeches V. Ivanov and Prince. E. Trubetskoy from different points of view, but in general, we think, the spiritual sources of this evil are equally correctly identified. But these sources - no matter how deeply they are laid - cannot be identical with the roots, with the metaphysical basis of the nationality of our enemy. This is impossible already because this metaphysical basis, like the complex national culture that grows on it, can never be reduced to any one direction, is expressed in a single formula. All attempts at the logical definition of the essence of the national spirit rationalize the supra-national fullness of being and therefore illegally narrow it down. And since the roots of national existence are expressed in a peculiar, inherent in the nation, religious mentality, the latter as such, that is, in its general spirit, cannot be just a delusion and evil. Any common religious mentality that has centuries-old traditions and has grown out of the very soul of the people,necessarily encompasses some relative, private truth and therefore cannot by itself be held responsible for the evil will of the nation. Therefore, the sources of evil in national life should always be thought of only as errors, into which the nation has fallen, as a false path that it has taken and the necessary rejection of which for the first time will return the nation to what is true and genuine in the internal sense of the viable.
“Gottes ist der Orient, Gottes ist der Occident!” We can calmly repeat these words of the German Goethe, for this German is not our enemy. Quite the contrary: we carry these words against our banner against modern Germany, the fault of which, perhaps, lies in the fact that it has forgotten these words, has lost all understanding of the religious worldview from which they expire, and, renouncing their great sages, indulged in the temptation of unprincipled and irreligious national conceit. The war is not between East and West, but between defenders of the law and defenders of power, between the guardians of the shrines of the universal human spirit - including the true contributions of the German genius to it - and its detractors and destroyers.Only in this consciousness can one find the true justification of the great European war.
It should be noted that in a public lecture on the same topic, given in Petrograd on November 25, V. F. Ern introduced a significant addition that significantly changes his very thought. Along with the mainstream of the “German idea” against which he is rising, he noted a completely different direction, calling it representatives of Goethe and Novalis, and even declared the fight against “immanentism” the struggle for the liberation of the German soul. This addition, however, obliges to a very radical reworking of the whole concept of Erna’s historical and philosophical concept. First of all, “immanentism” is not at all identical with the “German idea” as such. Then it would be necessary to significantly change the genealogy, and partly the assessment of this direction: we recall only that Novalis attributed himself to the followers of Böhme, whom Ern considers to be the predecessor of Kant - and thus Krupp. Without actually going into the discussion of the complex issues that arise here, we confine ourselves to only one conclusion: if Boehme could have generated both Kant and Novalis (as well as Schelling), then this meansthat "immanentism" can be a designation of the most diverse attitudes - from the deepest religious and mystical to pure non-religious positivism and "phenomenalism." If we take into account the necessary amendments arising from this, then Ern's idea could be edited so that it contains an undoubted part of the truth; for the source of the modern evil of German culture lies in idolatry, in the deification of earthly interests and values, and the source of this idolatry lies in combining religious instinct with non-religious positivistic outlook; and since Kant (but in any case not Eckhart and Böhme!) was involved in bringing up this unnatural mentality, it is permissible to associate it with the deformities of modern German social thought. But this connection would also require substantial reservations! - The substantial, complex and subtle question about the spiritual roots of the modern German mentality, we hope, will still be discussed in the pages of Russian Thought.
On the search for the meaning of war
On the search for the meaning of war
On the search for the meaning of war
On the search for the meaning of war
On the search for the meaning of war