Dialectical Materialism (A. Spirkin)
Prev Chapter 5. On the Human Being and Being Human Next

Man and culture

Never has so much been written about man and culture as in recent years. The problem is so relevant to the present day that it comes up constantly for discussion at national, regional and international levels. In the West some people predict a tragic future for both man and culture; others are inclined to optimism, though their optimism is often tempered with anxiety. The backcloth for these speculations is an outward wellbeing and even an unprecedented flow of material goods. Nevertheless the gloomy predictions prevail.

They present a marked contrast to the philosophy of man and culture in Marxism, which radiates a bright view of the future.

Any discussion of the phenomenon of culture calls for an analysis of the related concept of civilisation. Neither can be understood outside their contradictory unity.

The concept of civilisation. Society and its history constitute the most complex and multi-dimensional process. And if we are to make any sense of this highly developed piece of reality we shall need a wide range of concepts. Human reason, which for centuries has been nurtured by this seething polyglot reality, has evolved numerous concepts and categories to explain the world historical process. For a long time idealist views prevailed, but dialectical materialism, with its materialist understanding of world history, has evolved a new and comprehensive system of concepts, categories and principles that enable us to reveal the essence, sources, mechanisms and driving forces in the development of society.

Historically the idea of civilisation was formulated during the period of the rise of capitalism in order to substantiate the principle of historical progress, the necessity for the replacement of the feudal system, when the claim that it was God-given no longer satisfied social and philosophical thought. Instead it was maintained that history was motivated by man's vital interests, his desire to realise the principles of social justice and legal equality. Thinkers became concerned with the future of world civilisation as a whole and this prompted them to create a different paradigm of philosophical thought, particularly when the victory of the Socialist Revolution in Russia in 1917 launched a new stage in the development of civilisation—development with a humanist orientation on the national and social emancipation of mankind, on distribution of the wealth of society according to work, and on freedom of the popular will in managing the affairs of state and society.

On the other hand, the sharpening of social contradictions in capitalist society led some philosophers to believe that the "sun" of social progress was about to set. This idea was most fully expressed in Oswald Spengler's well-known book The Decline of the West, which stimulated such thinkers as Pitirim Sorokin and Arnold Toynbee to produce their own socio philosophical patterns of the global historical process. Sorokin attempted to reduce recurrence in the historical process to recurrence in the spiritual sphere by generalising the corresponding spiritual phenomena into a concept of "types of culture" (culture being treated as synonymous with civilisa tion), while treating the historical process as their fluctuation. According to Sorokin, the sensate society that we know today is moving towards inevitable collapse and this is connected with the successes of science and materialism. He sees the salvation of humanity in the victory of the religious and altruistic principles, which should be active and creative. According to Arnold Toynbee, there is no single unified history of humankind. We are concerned with a score or so of unique and self-contained civilisations, and all of them are equally valuable in their own peculiar way. In its development every civilisation passes through the stages of emergence, growth, breakdown and disintegration, after which it is replaced by another. At present, according to Toynbee, only five main civilisations have survived: the Chinese, the Indian, the Islamic, the Russian, and the Western. Civilisation's driving force is the "creative minority", which leads the "passive majority". In the stage of disintegration the minority imposes its will on the majority not by authority but by force. The doctrines of Toynbee and Sorokin are both idealist, in the sense that they tend to ignore the development of the material life of society as the basis of the historical process and to absolutise the spiritual element. On the other hand, these doctrines do attempt to revise the mechanistic doctrine of the purely linear progress of society, to evolve an alternative to the conception of "Eurocentrism".

Marxism went to the root of the problem by showing that the development of society proceeds in successive stages, pinpointing the distinctive features of each stage, and thus evolving the category of the socio-economic formation. This placed our understanding of history on a scientific, dialectical-materialist basis, which is the only feasible one. The category of the socio-economic formation is crucial for interpreting both the history of mankind and its specific phenomena, such as culture and its interconnections with society and the individual.

However, this category does not account for the whole categorial apparatus of socio-philosophical thought. The infinitely rich texture of history cannot be reduced to various types of formation and the histories of many nations do not fit into any formational typology. Some nations never passed through the slave-owning formation, others "bypassed" capitalism, others are a mixture of tribal, feudal, capitalist and even socialist relations, while yet others exist in a state so indefinite as to defeat even the most subtle socio philosophical typology. In view of this complexity of the historical process, Engels noted that no one specific formation had ever exactly corresponded to its definition. History is constantly moving forward but not in a straight line; it zigzags, it turns back and all these different directions are taken in an extremely unsteady rhythm. The arrangement of the socio-economic formations in a straight line is a scientific idealisation, which the ideological critics of Marxism misinterpret as a desire to provide a theoretical basis for the idea that all the roads of history lead to one goal, and that all the past has been merely an exhaustingly long preparation for the ascent to the sunlit peak of universal happiness. But mankind's desire for social equality is indeed a recurring phenomenon. From time immemorial it has provided inspiration to the best minds of humanity, but this does not make the vector of history a straight line. Each people takes its own road. Some civilisations achieve a great and brilliant efflorescence and then, for some strange or even known reason perish, as was the case with the Mayas; other civilisations soar like a firework into the heavens, shedding their brilliant light on everything around them, then fall back in a shower of historically insignificant sparks. Yet others move slowly, retaining their uniqueness, protected from change as if by embalmment.

In Marxist literature there is no unanimity about the meaning of civilisation. Some thinkers are inclined to dismiss the concept altogether, holding that it adds nothing to the broad concept of society. Others identify civilisation with the socio-economic formation, which is also a way of denying the necessity for the concept of civilisation. I believe that the correct standpoint is to regard civilisation as a special and very important category, as something which coincides with the category of the socio-economic formation in some respects but also differs from it essentially in others. The concept of civilisation "works" particularly well when world history is thought of in global terms, as something integral, and the future of mankind is regarded from the standpoint of unity and diversity. Historically civilisation defines not the early dawn of humanity, not its childhood or even adolescence, but its youth and maturity, the established forms of society. Basing himself on Lewis Henry Morgan's book Ancient Society, Frederick Engels followed him in observing that society began with the stages of savagery and barbarity. These were the first gleams of sociality. And they were superseded by civilisation, the centres of which arose in various continents, some in Africa, others in Asia, others in Europe, and yet others in America. From this point we can begin to discuss the stages of civilisation and its corresponding forms.

The concept of civilisation has more than one meaning. Generically it denotes the historical alternative to the savagery and barbarity, which we mentioned above.

Secondly, civilisation may be taken to mean a relatively high stage in society's mastery of the forces of nature, a relatively high level of organisation of social relations and, in general, all aspects of social existence and culture and also a uniqueness of material and spiritual life of society in the framework of the nation, the state unit or the region. In this sense it embraces the overall motion of human history, the global achievements of society, the world standards evolved in the development of culture, society, technology and the productivity of labour, and also, of course, all the specific features of regional, national and ethnic forms of social existence.

Thirdly, civilisation may be thought of as a limitless universal phenomenon embracing not only terrestrial but also extraterrestrial forms in their assumed endless diversity, denial of which would be tantamount to acknowledging the greatest of all divine miracles. The universe is eternal and infinite. It cannot, in principle, contain only one terrestrial civilisation. If it did, civilisation would not be something natural and functioning according to certain laws, but a unique, unnatural, entirely fortuitous exception to the logic of the life of the universe and would thus have to be regarded as something miraculous. This was intuitively perceived by many ancient thinkers, who acknowledged a countless number of worlds inhabited by rational beings. It would be only natural if human civilisation, having penetrated outer space, sooner or later came into contact with extraterrestrial forms of civilisation.

The present age is characterised by a growth of integrating trends and the acceleration of development. Uniqueness preserves itself by overcoming its own hypertrophy. Even the least developed countries are being drawn increasingly into the orbit of modern civilisation. Interrelations are becoming closer and there is greater exchange of historical experience between one nation and another. All this goes to show that an unprecedented world-historic community of mankind is in the process of formation and requires a joint coordinating reason, not centrifugal forces that generate trouble spots all over the world and bring grief and suffering upon millions of innocent people. More intensely than ever before humankind expects enmity and strife to be replaced by order and harmony. As yet, however, everything is in a state of contradiction. The victories of technology are often won at the cost of human health. Even the pure light of science with its radiant truths may also contain destructive rays. Discoveries and inventions, all the brilliant fireworks of the human intelligence, may burn up the very torch of reason.

While acquiring boundless wealth, although in extremely unevenly distributed forms, mankind has also created the real possibility of its own destruction. The imperialist threat of an annihilating nuclear, laser, chemical and bacteriological war has as its scientific and technological premise the achieve ments of modern civilisation. How is it that the great forces of civilisation imply not only benefits for humanity but also the possibility of a completely opposite effect? Where can we find a realistic solution to this seemingly hopeless contradiction? This predicament has been ideologically expressed in various philosophical, sociological, artistic and religious works whose conceptions tend to be more and more often of an apocalyptic nature. The scientific answer to these problems is given by Marxism and the real solution to them is to be found in the achievements of the countries of socialism.

The wise statesman is one who understands the overall tendency of the historical process, the law-governed tendency of society to organise itself in such a way as to eliminate the very possibility of some people building their happiness on the unhappiness of others, to liberate everyone ·from social inequality, from the unjust distribution of wealth, which results in some people smothering themselves in luxury while others are deprived of the merest necessities.

Civilisation is characterised not only by the level of production of material and spiritual goods that has been achieved, by a certain stage in the development of social relations, by freedom of the individual and of the nation as a whole, but also by the possibility, the potential for progress that is inherent in the social system it has evolved. The higher the civilisation, the richer and more energetic its potentials, the more rational and viable its orientation on the future. But not, of course on the "pie-in-the-sky" principle.

A society that has been doomed by history lacks these vital potentials and its line of development declines, like that of the Roman Empire, for instance. Empires in general tend to resemble the dinosaur. With its gigantic body and disproportionately small head, it became less and less capable of rationally organising its own life activity and therefore was unable to compete in the grim struggle for existence. In the extinction of this clumsy giant among animals we may justifiably perceive a symbol of the inevitable end of imperialism in general.

Imperialist expansion, the desire for world domination in all its forms, the growing menace of war, the accelerating pace of scientific and technological progress and the accompanying ecological disturbance, threaten civilisation with a serious crisis. A vicious circle has arisen from which only the responsible forces of the collective wisdom of humanity can save us. It is not enough now for statesmen to think on the scale of the interests of one state. What humanity now needs are minds that think in terms of the planet as a whole.

The paramount consideration today is the preservation of peace, which has become the cause not of just one nation but of all nations, and responsibility for peace rests on the shoulders of every rationally thinking person and all social groups and classes of society. The defence of peace is the highest aim of the peoples of the socialist countries and this fact is enshrined in their constitutions.

The philosophy of culture. Civilisation depends on culture for its development and existence and, in its turn, provides the conditions for the existence and development of culture. Historically culture precedes civilisation.

Usually culture is understood as the accumulation of material and spiritual values. This is a broad and largely correct interpretation but it leaves out one main fact, and that is the human being as the maker of culture. Culture is quite often identified with works of art, with enlightenment in general. This definition is too narrow. Nor can one agree with the notion that culture embraces only the sphere of intellectual production, even if we take this sphere to include the whole of science. Such an interpretation leaves out a great deal. For example, the culture of physical labour, administration, of personal relationships, and so on. Reducing culture to the intellectual sphere results in an elitist approach depriving culture of its nationwide significance. But any person may make a contribution to culture, and not only artists, writers, or scientists. The concept of culture is an integral and all-embracing concept which includes various phenomena, ranging from the cultivated blackcurrant bush to La Gioconda, and methods of administrating the state. Culture defines everything that man does, and how he does it, in the process of self-fulfilment. Culture is the method of the self-realisation of the individual and society, the measure of the development of both. Various fields in knowledge— ethnography, archeology, history, literary criticism and so on—study the various spheres of culture. What we are interested in here is not the numerous spheres in which cultural activity of various peoples, nations, ethnic groups, social groups and individuals have manifested themselves, but the essence of culture, i. e., culture as a philosophical category.

We may gain some idea of the meaning of culture by turning to the etymology of the word, which can be traced back to the Latin cultura, deriving from the word colere, meaning both to "cultivate" and to "worship". It is a curious fact that the very origin of the word culture contains the wisdom of the people's understanding of culture as the worshipful cultivation of something, particularly the land. The word "culture" was thus from the beginning related to good action. And action usually means assimilation of our world in some form or another. It may therefore be said that culture is a kind of prism, through which everything essential to us is refracted. Every nation, every level and form of civilisation, and every individual attains knowledge of the world and a mastery of its principles and laws to the extent that it masters culture. The forms of culture are a kind of mirror that reflects the essence of every enterprise, its techniques and methods, and the contribution which it makes to the development of culture itself. In this sense man himself is a phenomenon of culture, and not only of nature. If we may attempt an analogy, it may be said that culture is the opened, read and understood pages of the "book of life", pages which when assimilated by the individual become his selfhood.

Culture is not merely a matter of skill raised to the level of art, but also a morally sanctioned goal. Culture manifests itself in ordinary consciousness and everyday behaviour, in labour activity and the attitude that one adopts to such activity, in scientific thought and artistic creation and the vision of their results, in self-control, in one's smile and manner of laughing, in love and other intimate relationships, which the individual may elevate to unexpected heights of tenderness and spiritual beauty. The truly cultured person shows all these facets in every manifestation of his selfhood. Culture is characterised by the vital ideals of humankind, of the individual, the social group, the class and society as a whole. The more significant these ideals, the higher the level of culture.

In what forms does culture exist? First of all in the form of human activity, which is generalised into certain modes or methods of its realisation, in the sign or symbolic forms of the existence of the spirit, and finally in palpable material forms, objects, in which the individual's purposeful activity finds its embodiment. As something created by human beings, culture is at the same time a necessary condition for humanity's cultural existence and development. Outside culture the individual cannot exist as a human being. As water permeates soil, culture permeates every pore of social and individual life. When studying one or another culture We usually think of it as something relatively independent. In reality, culture exists as a historically evolved system comprising its objects, its symbolism, traditions, ideals, precepts, value orientations and, finally, its way of thought and life, the integrating force, the living soul of culture. In this sense culture exists supraindividually, while at the same time remaining the profoundly personal experience of the individual. Culture is created by mankind, by the nation, the class, the social group and the individual. The objective forms in which culture exists are the fruit of the creative activity of the people as a whole, the masterpieces of geniuses and other great talents. But in themselves the objective and symbolic forms of culture have only a relatively independent character; they are lifeless without man himself and his creative activity. All the treasures of culture in their palpable material form come to life only in the hands of a person who is capable of revealing them as cultural values.

In defining civilisation we stressed that it arose historically after culture and on its basis. The two form what is to a great extent a unified social formation, but their unity is internally contradictory and may in some respects become diametrically so. For example, nature accepts everything from culture but by no means everything from civilisation. A generally cultured attitude to nature presupposes the rational use of its forces without violating their natural harmony. Such forms of the spiritual life of society as science, literature and art are facts of culture. They organise and ennoble human feelings and serve as the plastic means that connects the reason and the heart in a single whole, thus eliminating the disharmony that often arises between them. The general cultural significance of science is enormous. It raises society and human beings to a higher level of spiritual development, thus increasing the power of reason. In science, however, a fact of culture is, above all, what is directly or indirectly aimed at improving the higher intellectual principles in man and society. And one certainly cannot describe as culture or the making of culture any activity which is deliberately aimed at destroying the achievements of reason and of human hands. Science is a beneficial phenomenon of the mind. But how much evil it brings and may yet bring in unscrupulous hands!

Civilisation is organically linked with the advance of technology. But the main thing in technological progress is, or should be, its humane orientation. It is important to know what a certain technology gives to man and what it takes away from him. The face of culture bears the imprint of humanity, and anything that is against humanity is not culture but anti-culture. For example, such highly technical sophisticated means of murder and violence as war, torture, and imprisonment, have nothing in common with culture, although they occur in civilised societies. Can the brutalities of despotic regimes be described as a phenomenon of culture? Can the means of mass annihilation be called a material reality of culture? It would be a great sacrilege to recognise such things as cultural realities, even when acknowledging the inevitability of their existence. All this is a creation of civilisation, but not of culture. This contradiction between culture and civilisation may also be found in the individual, the self. The adjective "cultured" presupposes something more than the acquisition of the ability to solve complex intellectual problems or to behave properly in society. Culture in the true sense presumes the observation of all the formal elements of socially accepted standards not as something external but as an integral part of the personality, of consciousness and even subconsciousness, of its habits. These standards then acquire a true and lofty spirituality, which is something more than obedience to certain rules. The culture of both the individual and society has various degrees of sophistication.

Every educated person may at times have a good opinion of himself. He may feel that he is cultured, and even intellectual ly advanced. But true culture and intellect are something very elevated and also very profound. They imply not only a subtle, sophisticated cast of mind developed through education but also a restless conscience, a bitter sense of discomfort when one is pursued by doubts as to the truth or falsehood of a situation. They imply concern and compassion for the fate of the people. An intellectual person knows that intellect is not an aim in itself but the dedication of one's life to others, the altruistic service of truth, goodness and beauty. All this is what we mean when we say a person is cultured. And we also mean the ability and courage to take responsibility for things that may have no direct bearing on ourselves but affect other people, and not only our near ones, but the people in general, the whole of humanity.

People are not born cultured; they become so through education and upbringing. Every individual learns to be cultured.

The objective and symbolic forms of culture are not implanted in man, they are merely given to him as the subject for study. In order to master them, to make them his own, to incorporate them in the structure of his personality and thus cultivate that personality, a person must enter into special relations with them through other people and subject himself to what is called upbringing, an active process that involves both the educator and the educated in culture making, without which the life of contemporary or any other society would be inconceivable. Upbringing or education is itself historical. At first, in the earliest stages of human society, as with small children, education was simply imitative of the elementary actions of others. But this process becomes educative inasmuch as it takes place under the control of educators. With the passage of time it becomes more and more complex. Until, finally, such forms arise as school and college education and training on scientifically evolved principles. At the same time the boundlessly rich school of life as well as self-education also play the part of educator.

Without education and self-education there could be no culture, and certainly no cultural progress. It is education that relays cultural values from one generation to another and helps to multiply them. The constant accumulation of cultural values places increasingly complex demands on education as a most essential form of the creation of culture.

Culture is a social phenomenon that embraces not only the past and the present, but also the future.

Like everything else in life, culture is historical. The primitive horde and the tribal society and all the subsequent forms of organisation, all the stages of civilisation are characterised by their own peculiar way of life, perception of the world, and levels of consciousness. The culture of all peoples throughout history is permeated to some extent by religion. This is expressed in various rituals, forms of worship, in deities, in art, in philosophy and even in science. It is hidden in the very fabric of language—even an atheist, for example, may say several times a day "goodbye", which originally meant "God be with you". Without some fundamental knowledge of the history of religion it is impossible to understand our human biography, the biography of the human race, and to become a cultured person generally. For example, primitive society was full of animist, magic and mythological beliefs and this left its imprint on the whole system of the life, thought, emotions and interrelations of people and their relationship with nature.

The ancient Orient is characterised by an urge to achieve complete union between man and nature, the extinction of the self in nirvana, understood as the highest level of the existence of energy. An intuitive integral knowledge of the world and of human nature permeates the whole of human existence and the spiritual life of human beings. This is a kind of knowledge in which philosophy, art, religion, science and social psychology are all intrinsically merged. The philosophy of the ancients was steeped in an awareness of the cosmic element and its exponents thought in terms of images which were plastic and almost geometrically integrated; and this was expressed in science, philosophy, art and everything else. The Middle Ages had a special type of culture related to the desire to achieve a personal absolute—God. Medieval culture is a culture of religious spirituality and the mortification of the flesh in the name of this spirituality with its orientation on the heavenly kingdom as the highest ideal of earthly existence, to which all the spheres of the life of society are subordinate. When capitalism came into being, everybody began to claim the right of free manifestation of his creative ego. The whole mode of human existence changed. The standards of culture also changed. Everything was subjected to the judgement of human reason and everything that failed this test was rejected. Society was rife with individualism, calculation and pragmatism.

Socialism has brought different ideals and standards of culture that are permeated with a profound and comprehensive humanism, as expressed in the maxim: everything for the benefit of man and everything in the name of man. The freedom of every person is seen as an indispensable condition for the freedom of all. This is the truly humane principle of life and standard of cultural development that permeates the whole world outlook of socialist society.

These are very general outlines of the historical types of culture and are not intended to draw strict dividing lines between them. It should also be stressed that to this day in many parts of the world huge masses of people on our planet adhere, in varying degrees, to some kind of religious belief and this is true not only of "simple folk" but also of highly educated people. At the same time growing numbers of people are estranged from this form of culture. The striking thing is the vitality and social power of religious culture, which provides a kind of spiritual integrating principle for whole nations and also for various social groups within one or another nation. This extremely complex social and psychological phenomenon needs investigation in the context both of world history and the present day.

The dominating role of certain forms in relation to others is characteristic of culture. In the Middle Ages religion clearly played the dominating role; its values were placed higher than anything else. The religious-philosophical consciousness is the dominant form of culture in the Orient. Literature and music were the prime factors in all Russian culture of the 19th century, just as, a little earlier, philosophy and music played the dominant role in Germany. The development of culture does not follow a straight ascending line. It is beset with contradictions, that can be both beneficial and harmful, and signal decline as well as achievement. The wisdom of the people, folk wisdom, for example, has amassed a great wealth of empirical discovery connected with healing. But how much has been lost or passed unnoticed or deliberately ignored through the "ignorance of the wise"? The rediscovery and rehabilitation of what is reasonable in folk culture but has been "tarnished" is also a contribution to culture, and a very important one.

The contradictory nature of culture finds expression also in the fact that every culture has progressive, democratic and antidemocratic, reactionary, regressive tendencies and ele ments. This is expressed in Lenin's idea that there are two cultures in the national culture of every class-divided society. The expression "mass culture" is today extremely popular in the West. It is mostly used with a tinge of scorn, meaning something "watered down for the majority". But the concept of mass culture may also be understood positively. Socialism has made culture accessible to the masses, to millions of ordinary people, who previously vegetated in a state of ignorance and illiteracy. Today the peoples who have shaken off colonial oppression are vigorously and with all their strength striving towards the heights of modern culture.

What is imposed or implanted under the guise of "mass culture" in the capitalist countries has a political and ideological implication—the reinforcement of the power of the bourgeoisie.

The term "mass culture" becomes negative when the masses are not raised to the level of real culture, when "culture" itself is refabricated to suit the primitive tastes of the backward sections of the population and itself declines, degenerates to a level so low as to be an affront to all real cultivation of the senses. The mass of the people with its great fund of folk wisdom is presented with stupidity in the guise of culture and the sacred majesty of true culture's historical mission is insulted in the process.

If cultural progress may be defined as the growth of spirituality both in individuals and society as a whole, its regress is expressed in a lack or decline of such spirituality. And this is not compensated by material wellbeing. In the developed capitalist countries the ordinary person is sur rounded by an abundance of consumer goods, but society as a whole is in the midst of a moral crisis. Crime, drug addiction, mental sickness and even suicide are on the increase.

In the bourgeois world the further progress of civilisation goes hand in hand with a decline in its spiritual values. This was pointed out and expressed long ago in a morbidly acute form by Nietzsche and Spengler.

According to Nietzsche, the whole of European culture had for long been in a state of mounting torment and tension, which was carrying it to its destruction. European culture, he thought, was thrashing about, violently, convulsively like a flood seeking an outlet, with no thought of its own actions and even fearing to consider them. While acknowledging the multiplicity of local cultures, each of which was passing through its life cycle and dying, Spengler maintained that civilisation was the dusky end of culture, its ossified body. Why were two such positive concepts, expressed in such fine words, so sharply contrasted? Both thinkers, horrified by the crisis they observed in the world of capital, were painfully aware that certain destructive principles had arisen and were gaining momentum in civilisation, which both produced cultural values and put them at risk of total destruction. What Nietzsche and Spengler failed to see, however, was that the destructive principles were not inherent either in civilisation or culture, but in the character of the socio-political relations of the society they were studying. In many respects politics determines the vector of the forces of both civilisation and culture.

It is generally known that a disproportion very often arises between the level of civilisation, particularly its technico-economic reality, and the level of culture that has been achieved, and that this disproportion may become paradoxical. The times of the oil lamp and the wooden plough were graced with brilliant achievements in art, literature and philosophy. We have only to think of the great cultures of ancient Greece and even more the ancient Orient, the age of the Renaissance, and of Russian culture, which in conditions of serfdom astonished the world. This does not mean, of course, that beneficial urges of the mind require difficult circumstances, although there is a modicum of truth in this notion. Great works of art have indeed often been created in very hard conditions, as though they required some kind of resistance, a kind of "purgatory" in order to test the strength of their all-conquering power. But this in no way suggests that the difficulties themselves give rise to greatness. Difficulties are not its "parents" but merely its stern "examiners"! By no means all nations who are known for their backwardness in the technical and economic spheres have created masterpieces of world cultural significance. Here there is a mystery which demands a solution.

At one time cultures tended to be extremely self-contained, closed. In the course of their comprehensive historical development they became more open to all kinds of influences and a process of interaction of cultures took p lace. Life evolves increasingly flexible mechanisms for this interaction, which helps to raise the whole culture to a higher level. Despite their uniqueness, the originality of the subtle fabric of any given culture, whose threads go back into the distant past, the various types of culture are in principle comparable, and a dialogue of mutual understanding can, and does, take place between them. Culture in its individual and socio psychological expression is also characterised by the means with which it assimilates other cultures and its relation to them. Indifference or even hostility to the unique aroma of "alien" cultural values indicate a low level of development of one s own culture. Today one may observe a tendency towards the flowering of national cultures, one feels the great potential of ethnos. One may assume that further human progress will take place in the form of a mounting rational mutual enrichment of the cultures of West and East in the historical sense of the term. The overall unity of the general principles of human thought does not preclude a certain historical specific in the philosophies and other forms of culture. The predominantly analytical Western mind, which dissects everything into parts with its scientific scalpel, will be enriched by the intuitive integrating spirit of the Orient, by borrowing its subtle truths and perceptions and in its turn enriching them. World culture can only gain from this beneficial and probably indispensable synthesis which can be achieved without dimming the unique and rich colours of the local cultures.

The world of values. The highest of all existing values is man himself, his sense of dignity, his honour, his rights, his free thought, the self-realisation of his capabilities. Man has at his disposal the ocean of cultural values created by world history, and also the boundless treasures of virgin nature, which he is constantly using and enjoying as far as his own talent, education and upbringing permit him. The value perception of the world is a special dimension of reality in its application to man and society. An unquenchable need to know the meaning of life is a part of the very structure of the human ego and this impels us to build and accept a certain system of values, by which we must be guided in our thoughts, feelings and actions, in our relation to the world and to other people. In order to know what kind of a person we are dealing with, the nature of this or that society, we must examine it very closely and try to see what it is ruled by, what it worships, what it admires and what it hates, what it is striving for and what it avoids by all possible means. A system of values is something that is deeply rooted in the structure of our ego. Everyone knows how painful, even agonising any "reappraisal" of values can be.

Things and processes, events, people, culture—all this exists objectively, independently of us, but it may also exist for us; we get to know the world, to admire it, we enjoy something or use it for some purpose or other. A human being cannot limit himself merely to stating the fact that something has happened, is happening or will happen, i. e., to mere knowledge of the fact as such. He always tries to understand, or sense what meaning this fact has for him, for his life, and also for the life of others, his own family, the life of society, whether it bodes well or ill.

How is one to define the concept of value in philosophy? Value is a fact of culture, and it is social in its very essence. It is a functional and at the same time an objective-subjective phenomenon. In themselves, things, events, outside their relation to man, to the life of society, do not exist as "categories of value". But as soon as a given reality comes into the focus of human consciousness and is made, transformed or modified by it, it also acquires a value aspect of its existence, a meaning. For example, instruments of labour, like everything else made by man, are a value which both determines the mode of their production and demands that they be used in a certain way. Life gives things certain functions—ways of serving man with their natural and man-made properties. This refers not only to humanised nature, that is to say, to the whole massif of civilisation, but even to the celestial bodies. They are in themselves significant in the context of the universe, as is everything in nature. But man's perception of them, the way he sees and comprehends them, and his relation to them are already a phenomenon of culture. The stars, for example, "speak" in various ways to man. In various periods of his history, at different levels of culture and even depending on his state of mind and mood man has had different attitude to the stars. The concept of value is correlative with such concepts as "meaning", "use" or "harmfulness". Use may be of a purely utilitarian character. There may be material or spiritual values (clothes, home, implements of labour, knowledge, skills and so on). We speak of the truth as a cognitive value, which brings enormous benefit to human beings and may also be used for evil purposes, as scientific truths often are. People may be burned at the stake or condemned to penal servitude for the sake of truth. History abounds in the exploits of people who have done good for others. These are moral values.

Cultural values are expressed in all kinds of symbols and systems of symbols, which constitute a huge layer of our value consciousness. An important place in this system belongs to the names of famous people, of heroes, various kinds of rituals, memorials, and so on. A person is born with symbols. His whole conscious life is surrounded by them. He dies with them. They accompany him on his last road. Symbols pursue us even into "the other world". Historians are known to have long disputes about the place of burial of some historical personalities.

What is the secret of the beauty of virgin nature, of the marvellous colours of the ever rolling sea waves, of the purple sunset, the enchanting Northern Lights, the majestic silence of mountains or the sounds of the forest? Is the delight that a human being experiences when he perceives all this confined simply to physical reality? Of course, not. And what kind of a reality is this delight anyway? Here we need not everyday language, but the language of music and art, the world of images used by the poet and writer. In other words, here we are speaking of aesthetic value.

When a person describes beauty, he characterises the aesthetic reality through his sensations and emotions in inseparable unity with the source that evoked them or, on the contrary, he describes the objective source in its unity with the emotions it has evoked in his soul. Nature speaks to us in our human language. Any attempt to think of beauty by itself, outside the objective-subjective unity is senseless. And this is true of everything that concerns the world of values.

When discussing the objective content of value, we also encounter a certain degree of convention. For example, conformity to the rules of decency is a phenomenon of cultural value. But what is considered decent depends on historically shaped standards and customs.

Such are the logic and psychology of the value relationship that an object discovered by our need may become an interest while the opportunities for satisfying that need remain extremely indefinite, problematic. This increases the attraction of the object, thus raising its value. What do people think of as valuable? And what is really valuable at bottom? The measure of value is decided by the degree of significance that a given object has for man and the possibility of acquiring that object. Value is historical. Take, for example, time. In the distant past time was treated carelessly, people scarcely bothered to count it. But now time is becoming increasingly compact and costly. People value it more and more, it has even acquired a commercial significance. In the age of the scientific and technological revolution nearly every human action is timed down to the last minute. The value that human beings attach to time characterises in some degree the level of their culture.

When making an evaluation, particularly when facing a choice, it is important to know how strong and lasting is the "pleasure" or usefulness, the significance, including the negative significance, connected with the attainment of what is chosen. Whether it is easily or repeatedly attainable. As most people know, there is what we call the phenomenon of the effort spent: the more effort we have put into something, the more valuable it is for us. We attach less value to what was easily obtained. An act of heroism, involving self-sacrifice, is highly valued precisely because it is significant for society and there was a possibility of action of a quite different order. The beautiful is beautiful only against the background of the ugly. This applies equally to both moral and aesthetic values.

The evaluating consciousness has its "yardstick" which it constantly applies to things, events and actions, to everything that concerns people. The ideal is the eternal criterion in moral, aesthetic, political and other assessments of events, things and people. One cannot, consequently, speak of values outside their specific historical content, out of the context of the type of civilisation, formation or culture that is involved.

The phenomenon of value is linked not only with the intellectual, the cognitive sphere, but also with the rich sphere of human emotions. After all, it is our emotional state that constitutes the decisive psychological condition of happiness. Wisdom tells us that happiness—one of the supreme values— does not depend on high social status, power and riches or even intellectual ability.

Value is a "capricious thing". An object of value may be admired, it may repel, it may arouse delight in some and contempt in others, while others remain entirely indifferent. Much depends on taste and taste is fickle and subject to the "winds" of mood, of time and space. Taste may be traced to the depths of the human soul, which is moulded by the forms of culture which the individual has absorbed.

Although values are concretely historical, there are some which, like diamonds, are treasured at all times. These are the values of wisdom, kindness, heroism, love of one's parents, the love of a mother for her children, and respect for one's ancestors, for one's country, for freedom.

To sum up, then, the concept of value expresses the properties of things, phenomena, events, material and spiritual objects satisfying, or capable of satisfying, certain needs and interests of human beings and society. Value is that which has meaning for man and society. All objects that are of interest to human beings, and thus possess value, have only a conditional value. Were it not for human inclinations, liking and interest, and the needs on which they are based, these objects would not have any value. Consequently everything that brings or may bring satisfaction of human needs, beginning from the most elementary, instinctive biological and material needs, to the sophisticated demands of intellectual taste, composes a world of values. This world also includes social standards, which prohibit or permit, which tell us what is allowable, desirable, obligatory or otherwise.

From the standpoint of its significance for the intellectual life of a given person or even a nation it would be wrong to contrast, for example, some scientific discovery or invention to Christian or Buddhist ethics. These are different voices in the single chorus of the spiritual life of humanity. And any belittling of one or another voice is unworthy of a truly cultured person, just as any discrimination against one nation is in itself a belittling of human dignity as a whole, and exposes the discriminator as a chauvinist and lacking in respect not only for himself as an individual but for his own nation. It is equally wrong to insist on any single standard of value judgement for the cultural features of different peoples.

But it is not enough merely to acknowledge the legitimate right of every people to live in its own specific way. One must also understand what this originality stands for. One culture may raise its voice about something on which another has nothing to say. And when even one voice is suppressed, the harmony of the chorus of the world culture cannot be complete.

Endless contradictions arise in the system of socio psychological stereotypes. The very concept of values in their full sense presupposes a creative attitude to life and is incompatible with standardisation of thought or behaviour. As the highest degree of spirituality, in the sense of high value orientations, culture consequently presupposes the breaking down of stereotypes. And it is those who break them that are the innovators. They create new values and, in so doing, generate new stereotypes, a new style of thought and behaviour. Hence there is a struggle, and this struggle involves losses; immortality may sometimes be won through premature death. Such has been the fate of the revolutionaries of thought and action at all times and among all peoples.

Man in the system of culture. Culture is the living process of the functioning of values in the context of the existence of the individual and society. It is the process of their creation, reproduction and use in historically changing ways. Culture arose and is developing together with society, creating an enormous tradition. The history of culture is full of stagnant phenomena, rigid dogmatic systems and conservatism, and also of revolutionary innovations. The previous achievements of culture are not parted from us. Their finest examples continue to live and "work". No child can become a developed personality without absorbing some of the treasures of culture. Culture always survives those who have created it and that which it originally served.

The first stages of a child's growth pass in the family, where the elementary notions of what is good and bad in the moral and aesthetic senses, of what is beneficial or harmful, are acquired. This is where the foundation is laid of sensory experience, the power of imagination and thought, and the elements of emotional culture. Admittedly, the educational effect of the kindergarten or the creche or the school, which carry out a planned educational programme on the emerging personality, are added to the experience of the family and thus bring with them the experience of centuries, developing in the child such qualities as curiosity, love of country, and so on.

Modern civilisation has enormously expanded the opportunities not only of human knowledge, of physical, biochemical, physiological and intellectual forms of activity, but also the various ways of developing them. Here an important role has been played by such disciplines as psychology, neurobiology, and medicine, which have long made humanity their study. They are constantly perfecting their research techniques in order to penetrate the mechanisms of life.

Great efforts are being made to find hitherto unknown human reserves in the hope of discovering more effective ways by which the nerve centres and other body centres can generate and transform bioenergy and information, of scientifically explaining the human ability to receive various radiations from living and other objects and the information effects connected with these radiations, which people have for long observed but which have not yet been properly researched. The advances that science has already made in penetrating the secrets of the living organism with the help of instruments of great resolving power give us hope and confidence that we shall be able to understand many mysterious phenomena, and that this knowledge may trans form the very style of man's philosophical and scientific thought, his idea of himself and his place in the universe, of the factors that control his vital functions.

The sages of ancient India discovered astonishingly subtle and profound psycho-biophysical connections between the human organism and cosmic and subterranean processes. They knew much that even today is beyond the ken of European scientific thought, or that it ignores, often trying to conceal its helplessness by asserting that oriental wisdom is mere mysticism, and thus showing its inability to distinguish the rational but not yet fully understandable essence from various figments of the imagination. It is sometimes difficult for us to penetrate the profound language of symbolic forms in which this wisdom is couched, to get at the essence of that wisdom. A full understanding of these complex problems can be achieved only in the broad context of history and culture. Historical experience offers us some instructive lessons for the present day. If we look around thoughtfully at the path humanity has travelled, it is not difficult to see that the minds of the makers of culture have been guided by the desire to achieve an understanding and a rational transformation of the human being himself, his bodily and spiritual organisation, the preservation and strengthening of his health. Socio-political, philosophical, religious, moral, aesthetic and all cultural efforts in general have tended towards this goal.

The culture of the ancient Orient affirmed not only ideas of man's dependence on the supernatural forces that were external to him; there was also a tendency to cultivate certain rules of behaviour in relation to these forces, including techniques of training the body in order to regulate and perfect bodily and spiritual processes. Various systems of exercises linked with religious beliefs were evolved to change the state of the mind, the consciousness, to achieve complete unity with the universe, to become one with the energy of nature. These techniques for influencing one's own organism through the mechanisms of psycho-physiological self regulation and control—techniques that are much in fashion today—could not have survived for centuries and have penetrated other cultures with a different ethnos, if they had not contained some real knowledge of the most subtle and hidden structural, energo-informational, neuro-psychical and humoral potentials, which even now sometimes seem fantastic to the analytical European mind, particularly when it is fettered by stereotypes.

Oriental culture is full of beliefs about the role of the way of life and its various components—breathing techniques, diet, self-training, cultivation of the skin, physical mobility, the ability to commune very subtly with nature, acupuncture, cauterising, and other ways of influencing the biologically active centres of the organism, herbomedicine, diagnostics by means of the iris of the eye, pulse and olfactory diagnostics, consideration of the position of the earth in relation to the celestial bodies in medicine, the time of year and day and of the properties of water in relation to the state of the earth strata and the character of its flow in connection with geomagnetic phenomena—all this and much else has contributed to the great wisdom of the Eastern peoples, the wealth of their culture and man's place therein, their understanding of the mechanisms of regulation of his life activity and vital potentials. Thus already in the distant past, in the mists of mythological world views the precious crystals of knowledge, tested by the experience of centuries, of skills in beneficially influencing man's body gradually accumulated. Flow could people in those far-off times know so much without any experiments or apparatus about the conditions and factors that regulate the course of the vital processes and the character of the interaction between man and nature, particularly the influence of the celestial bodies, the sun and moon and various radiations proceeding from outer space and the bowels of the earth!? And all this was taken into consideration both in diagnosing and in treatment! Does this not go to show an astonishingly high level of culture that should arouse our admiration, gratitude and desire to study! This knowledge could not have retained its vitality if it had not again and again been confirmed by practice.

With the liberation of cognitive thought from the fetters of dogma, knowledge about man controlled by experiment and logical analysis made substantial advance. We can see this in the ancient schools of medicine (Hippocratus) and the work of the Arabic middle ages (Avicenna), where the art of medicine acquired such firm foundations that what was achieved in this period has become part of the fund of present-day prophylactic, hygienic, dietetic and other rules, not to speak of physical culture. Behind all this lay many centuries of popular wisdom about healing that was sometimes astonishingly effective. Despite the barriers and profound scepticism of blinkered thought, scientists are now taking a much more sophisticated interest in this age-old wisdom because they see that it offers clues to the hidden processes in the human organism, and ways of changing the internal and external forms of human behaviour. On the basis of these clues, one can say that man's whole moral-psychological make-up is shaped by the direct and indirect influence of the conditions of his information-evaluative perception of the countless diversity of the environment, not only natural and specifically climatic but above all that of the unique world of culture, which he drinks in even with his mother's milk.

In this information-evaluative perception a great significance attaches not only to the boundless wealth of the concepts, notions, feelings and ideals evolved by human experience but also, and to a deeper extent, the values that have engraved themselves in the memory and that are imparted to the individual in childhood by his native culture—his native language, music, songs, fairy tales, paintings, sculpture and architecture, in a word, all the mental wealth of his own people. The ethnic climate of the home culture forms certain value orientations in the individual which make him a representative of precisely that culture.

Every patriot experiences a feeling of pride in the depth and inexhaustible wealth of his own culture. "... I am far from admiring that which I see around myself; as a writer I am irritated, as a person with prejudices, I am insulted, but I swear on my honour that not for anything in the world would I change my country or have a different history than that of our ancestors, that which God gave us."[1] Pushkin had an intense feeling of being organically linked with his own land, with the aroma of its history, with the charm of its memorials—the creation of the minds and hands of his fathers and forefathers.

The sense of pride in the culture of one's ancestors, one's people, plays an active role in forming the dignity of the individual and reinforces his civic maturity, his sense of responsibility for the future of his country. The memory of one's gifted ancestors, who created the works of art and literature and contributed to science, to social relations, is a sign of a person's rich spiritual endowment, of his respect for all the work of human hands, in which one can feel the soul of their creator, his labour, his amazing skill and perceptive observation. Literature has portrayed splendid characters with a complete mastery of their trade, characters who embody the talent of the nation, the sensitivity to beauty and the urge for free creative work and inspired labour that is inherent in any people. This wonder at the people's creative gifts helps a person to become a personality. Beauty is a source of moral health and strength.

Just as a tree growing in a certain soil puts down deep roots and drinks its juices, so a person from the moment of his birth until he departs from this life is deeply and in every respect rooted in the system of his culture and nourished by the spirit of his own people, their customs and morals, their sensory, emotional, intellectual and speech system of their culture. A person is also nourished by the specific type of natural landscape in which he lives and the memory of the people, its symbols and specific genetics. And if by force of circumstances a person is uprooted from the soil of his own culture and all its unique integrity, this is always a painful experience which may result in agonising forms of nostalgia. Such experience has been vividly and fully reflected in literature and music, particularly by those artists who felt such pangs themselves. The innate relationship with the native culture can be traced even to certain genetic mechanisms, which carry a powerful life-long programme, which is not only racial, national, but also family and even individual.

The gap between Western and Oriental cultures and the ignorance that exists on both sides often results in a representative of one culture becoming overenthusiastic about the other and forgetting his roots. For example, he may become dedicated to yoga or karate without taking into account the specific features of his own culture or the genetic and other natural factors of his psychosomatic structure. This may have a result that is directly opposite to what he desires. Resorting to the East in search of exotic variants of cultural values merely for the sake of the current fashion usually indicates a low level of culture. It is like a person chasing in the darkness of the unknown for something that he does not know. Any culture, especially its very deep personal stratum, has full significance only for its own conditions and within its own limits. The ways of behaviour pertaining to one system of culture cannot be thoughtlessly implanted in another. This cannot always be done even with plants. The culture of one's personal life, for example, with regard to health lies not so much in the stubborn desire to prolong one's genetically programmed life expectancy as in trying not to shorten it by all the means, which unfortunately are only too readily available in one's particular system of civilisation, for example, in the form of alcoholism, drug addiction, overindulgence in food, lack of exercise, and so on. Culture is closely akin to wisdom, or that part of it which is acquired by education. It involves the ability to observe the rule of moderation in everything, and if this moderation must be violated in the name of a new culture, it should also be done in accordance with reason and objective necessity.

* * *

The thinking mind of culture is philosophy. Philosophy is its focus and, without it, no real culture of the mind or heart, no true intellectual achievement is possible.

We have considered all the basic propositions of philosophy, its principles, categories and laws, its cognitive, creative and evaluative aspects. The author has sought to show how through the conceptual apparatus of philosophy the whole system of world-view, the methodology of cognition and the transformation of the world and man himself is organised. In concluding this book I have concentrated attention on the most essential problem of all, that of man and his existence in the world. We began with a definition of philosophy as a fact of culture, as its nucleus, as its self-consciousness; our concluding chapter has been an examination of culture as the human factor, the highest of all values known to man.



A. S. Pushkin, Complete Works, Vol. 7, Moscow, 1964, p. 863 (in Russian).

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