The Philosophers of Archeomodernity. Part.4

The Philosophers of Archeomodernity. Part.4

Translated by Michael Millerman. Founder of - online philosophy and politics courses on Plato, Aristotle, Nietzsche, Heidegger, Dugin, Strauss, and more.

Danilevsky: The Slavic historical and cultural type

Another Russian thinker belonging to the late Slavophiles was Nikolai Yakovlevich Danilevsky (1822-1885). Danilevsky came from a line of high-ranking aristocrats. His father was a general. He was not a professional philosopher, focusing primarily on natural science, in particular, botany. In his fundamental work Russia and Europe,17 Danilevsky approaches the fundamental position of the plurality of civilizations or, as he puts it, “cultural-historical types.” Separating Western civilization and, accordingly, Western European philosophy into a separate Romano-German cultural-historical type, Danilevsky not only relativizes the humanistic [classical, gumanitarnuyu] paradigm of Western culture, but describes the natural sciences of the West as a product of regional, local development, which has rather limited (and by no means universal) applicability. Danilevsky proves this point in detail in his work on criticism of Darwinism. 18

From Danilevsky’s point of view, the Romano-Germanic cultural-historical type is only one of possible models of spiritual development. Other cultures and peoples are able to create, and created repeatedly in antiquity, cultural-historical types based on completely different assumptions and value principles. Each of the cultural-historical types has its own limited geographical area of distribution and its own historical time cycle, within which this type develops. Therefore, instead of the idea of universal unidirectional progress, it is necessary to switch to a cyclical understanding of history and to measure it with a series of local cycles coexisting side-by-side and sometimes interacting with each other. The prototype of this approach can be seen in the works of the Italian philosopher and historian Giambattista Vico (1668-1744), and two centuries later very similar theories are formulated by the German philosopher Oswald Spengler in his famous work The Decline of the West, 19 followed by the English historian Arnold Toynbee. 20

As applied to our figures (Figure 1 and Figure 3), the approach proposed by Danilevsky can help to clearly distinguish the Western European hermeneutic circle in the hermeneutic ellipse - not as an organic part of the ellipse, but as an external, extraneous, foreign structure that can be isolated, separated and placed into the corresponding Romano-Germanic context. In other words, the West European hermeneutic circle as a Romano-German cultural-historical type can be considered as one of the possible (and real) versions of philosophy alongside others.

Danilevsky named ten cultural-historical types as valid and historically actual. Nine of them belonged to other spiritual forms and had a distinctive structure, different from the European cultural type, thereby proving the need for a plural understanding of culture and civilization. At different historical moments, each of the cultural-historical types is in different phases of historical development, so some of them disappeared, some continue to exist, some are on the rise, others are in decline. In addition, besides the actual, already established cultural-historical types, new formations may well arise and develop. Danilevsky believed that before our eyes a new cultural-historical type was being formed with a center in Russia, which he called “Slavic.”

Thus, Danilevsky made a most important discovery: he sociologically substantiated the possibility of Russian philosophy on the basis of the Slavic language and special cultural values, which, unlike other cultural-historical types, had not yet received a complete and final formulation and were in an embryonic state. Danilevsky does not specify in detail what the structure of the Slavic cultural-historical type is, limiting himself only to general descriptions. But from a philosophical point of view, he accomplishes a great deal, allowing us to identify the Romano-Germanic cultural type as a hermeneutical circle, artificially, violently and externally imposed on Russian society and imposed on it as “universal,” while in reality it is the product of a geographically external and temporally limited structure. In other words, Danilevsky’s theory describes the methodology on which the construction of the future Slavic cultural type should be based, taken as a project, the implementation of which is impossible without a preliminary liberation from the groundless pretensions of Westernism to universality, that is, without the liberation of Russia from Europe and European influence.

The lack of elaboration of the topic of the positive content of the Slavic cultural-historical type and the approximate formulations do not diminish the importance of Danilevsky’s ideas: according to his own conviction, in the case of the Slavic cultural-historical type, we are not dealing with something already existing, completed and fulfilled, but only with the initial stage of the process of its formation, which can go along a variety of trajectories. If one can say something about the roots and seeds of this structure being developed (which includes, of course, Orthodoxy, the characteristic features of Russian folk life and certain milestones in history, for example, the centuries-old struggle against Europe and its military, political and cultural aggression), it is impossible to say anything definite about the nascent phenomenon itself. In other words, Danilevsky outlines the sociological field for the emergence of Russian philosophy and stops there without specifying the content and structure of this phenomenon, since so far it is only a matter of justifying the possibility. And Danilevsky copes with this (sociological) task perfectly.

From a philosophical point of view, Danilevsky’s theories also have the merit that they make it possible to strictly identify the western component in the archeomodern complex and to bracket it. In the paradigmatic scheme of the hermeneutic ellipse (Figures 1, 3, 4), this can be interpreted as a call to extract from the structure one of the foci, focus B. This, according to Danilevsky’s plan, should naturally lead to the normalization of the hermeneutic situation and the gradual creation of an organic Russian hermeneutic circle around focus A, which will no longer be subject to artificial pressure from the second focus that turns the circle into an ellipse.

Danilevsky, like Leontiev, does not penetrate into the essence of pole A intuitively. He does not give vent to the archaic principle in his works, but describes the possibility of Russian philosophy from the outside, sociologically. On the whole, Leontiev and Danilevsky, probably came closer than other Russian thinkers to dismantling the archeomodern, set out the conditions and described the methods of this dismantling, pointed to the historical, sociological and cultural context in which it should be carried out, and formulated the initial settings (the boundary conditions and preliminary hypotheses) regarding what value reference points should be laid in the foundation of the organic Russian hermeneutic circle.

The Eurasianists and the Russian Cause

The next stage, continuing the tradition of Leontiev and Danilevsky, was the work of the Russian Eurasians of the 1920s and 30s: Trubetskoy, Savitsky, Alekseev, Vernadsky, Ilyin, Suvchinsky, Khara-Davan, Bromberg, etc.. Except for the followers of Solovyov, the Neoplatonist Karsavin (1982- 1952), and Seymon Frank, who was inspired by Solovyov’s idea of all-unity and Karsavin’s dBU7E-Platonism and sometimes published in Eurasian publications, there were no philosophers among the Eurasianists, but they all contributed one way or another to clarifying the question of the possibility of Russian philosophy.

The Eurasianists developed the approach of Leontiev and Danilevsky, elevating the concept of Russia as an independent civilization into a socio-political dogma and world-view. They gave this meaning to the concept “Russia-Eurasia,” which served to emphasize that Russia should be understood precisely in this civilizational sense. In our Figure 1, this corresponds to the call to build a purely Russian circle around focus A.

Continuing Leontiev’s Turkophilia and opposing the Western approach of the Slavophiles, Eurasians sought to push Russia further to the East (the Eurasian manifesto, written mainly by Savitsky, was called “Exodus to the East,”21 and the main book of the founder of Eurasianism, Trubetskoy, was “The Legacy of Genghis Khan”22) and rethink the significance of Russia's contacts with Asia and, first of all, the role of the Mongol conquests in Russian history. Starting from Danilevsky’s concept of the multiplicity of cultural and historical types, the Eurasians identified another cultural and historical type, the “Turanian,” characteristic of nomadic Eurasian empires (from Scythians and Sarmatians to Turks and Mongols) and showed its influence on Russian culture and especially on the socio-political and strategic features of Muscovite Russia, which borrowed from the empire of Genghis Khan the most important skills of imperial construction and a number of special sociological features. If for the Westerners these features were arguments for explaining Russia's “backwardness” compared to the West, the Eurasians interpreted them as signs of the peculiarity of Russian civilization, which there is no reason to be embarrassed by and no need to overcome. From their perspective, the influence of nomadic Great Steppe societies on the Russian people and Russian society was more positive than European influence. Alexander Nevsky’s alliance with the Horde contributed to the preservation of Russia from warlike Catholicism, which announced a crusade against the “eastern schismatics” in the 13th century.

At the same time, the “Yasa” of Genghis Khan practiced religious tolerance, which allowed Eastern Russia to maintain a religious and cultural identity, while the Russians in Lithuania, and then in the Polish-Lithuanian kingdom, were stifled by religious and cultural oppression and were gradually turned into second-class people because of their Orthodoxy.

The Horde gave to Russians a will to the centralization of political power, a militant steppe ethics, and a taste for creating gigantic continental state formations. The Russians took over the baton of Turan from the Mongols and, after the Horde weakened and collapsed, united all of Northeast Eurasia under their rule, restoring the geopolitical unity of the Turanian territories. However, the Eurasian worldview was directed not so much at a positive reassessment of the cultures of the East and the contribution of the steppe peoples to Russian history, as to justifying the possibility for Russia of an original path of development, confirming its civilizational peculiarity in comparison with the Romano-German world, and criticizing European universalism. In addition, the Eurasians reinterpreted the October Revolution of 1917, recognizing in the Bolsheviks not only “conspirators” and “destroyers,” but exponents of certain dispositions of the Russian people, who supported the new government, hoping to overthrow the pro-Western (archeomodern) monarchy, which the Eurasians polemically called nothing else than the “Roman-German yoke” that reigned in Russia since Peter I. According to Savitsky, the Russians are destined to lead the world movement against European imperialism – military, colonial, axiological, cultural, economic, etc. – and to lead cultures and civilizations against those who seek to impose their local criteria and assessments on the world as “universal” and “general.”23

This is the world-historical mission of the Russians, the Russian cause. It was on these strings of the Russian soul, according to the Eurasianists, that the Bolsheviks played with their “internationalism,” “world revolution” and “anti-imperialism.”

As in the case of Leontiev and Danilevsky, we do not encounter breakthroughs and insights among the Eurasians directly on the question of the possibility of Russian philosophy. But they significantly expanded and fundamentalized the sociological, historical, cultural, ideological, political, and geopolitical contexts within which this possibility could be grounded and proved. They did tremendous preparatory work aimed at dismantling archeomodernity and Westernism in Russian society and at accessing creative philosophical activity. But they did not produce this activity itself, focusing only on approaches to it. This is explained by the difficult political conditions of residence in exile and the problem of the establishment of a totalitarian Bolshevik regime in Russia, as well as by the fact that archeomodernity still retained its influence on Russian intellectuals, making them again fall into the trap of Westernism in difficult situations, fearing the complex prospects of originating that which, strictly speaking, never existed, authentic Russian philosophy and Russian culture.

So, at a certain moment in the internal Eurasian split, the founder of the movement, the linguist Trubetskoy, under the influence of the difficulties faced by Eurasianism, began to speak out that Russian culture nevertheless remains within the framework of the Western European and by no means Eastern tradition (it is curious that his assessments of Indian religions are a typical Eurocentric caricature).24 The archpriest George Florovsky criticized and left the ranks of the Eurasianists in the name of the “purity of Orthodoxy,” repenting of the “Eurasian temptation,”25 and he ended his journey with a rather unintelligible work on the “Ways of Russian Theology” and participation in the ecumenical movement.26 And in the 1930s the Parisian Eurasianists (Suvchinsky, Efron and Karsavin, who joined them at a certain stage) became too close to Bolshevism and tried to take the ideas of Fydorov as a surrogate for Eurasian philosophy. All these obvious signs of archeomodernity do not detract from the significance of the Eurasian movement for the topic we are considering. Their ideological course was consistent and extremely valuable, aiming at creating the prerequisites for grounding the possibility of the Russian hermeneutic circle and clearing the rubble of the last centuries of Russian history, including the contradictions contemporary to them of the Soviet period.

Pyotr Chaadayev – Philosophy as Russophobic Practice

Let us briefly consider the thinkers of the opposite camp - Russian Westernizers.

Chaadaev most clearly expounds the “smerdyakovistic” program of Russian Westernism in his “Philosophical Letters.”27 Chaadaev is surprisingly perceptive in his description of archeomodernity, and the fact that he smashes it to pieces by relying on Europe as a model and standard does not detract from the significance of its analysis. If you constantly keep in mind the “Russophobic” intention of the author, his admiration for the West as an initial position and do not pay attention to it, then the picture of Russian society Chaadaev draws will be extremely accurate. Here, for example, is a Chaadaev passage about Russian philosophy:

The primitive peoples of Europe, the Celts, Scandinavians, Germans, had their druids, their skalds, their bards, who in their own way were strong thinkers. Take a look at the peoples of North America, who are eradicated with such zeal by the material civilization of the United States: among them there are people who are amazing in depth. And now, I ask you, where are our sages, where are our thinkers? Who among us has ever thought, who is thinking for us now?28

If you understand this passage literally, it will constitute an ill-founded claim that the Russians did not have a culture, that they are not able to think, not only in comparison with Europeans, but even in comparison with the North American Indians! But behind the “smerdyakovshchina” a precise observation appears. One has only to replace the word “think” with the word “philosophize” and Chaadaev will be absolutely right (however, the example with the North American Indians will in any case be clearly unsuccessful: the Indians have culture, myths, thinking, but they have no philosophy). “And now, I will ask you, where are our sages, where are our thinkers? Who among us has ever philosophized, who philosophizes for us now?” And in this form, the remark is valid. It is significant that Chaadaev himself calls his text “Philosophical Letters”: before us is an attempt by the Russians to begin to philosophize after discovering the absence of a philosophical tradition in the past. What came before, Chaadaev recognizes as an unsuccessful “imitation of the West”:

What is simply a habit, an instinct in other nations, we have to hammer into our heads with a hammer. Our memories go back no further than yesterday; we are, so to say, strangers to ourselves. We move so oddly in time that, as we advance, the immediate past is irretrievably lost to us. That is but a natural consequence of a culture, which is wholly imported and imitative. There is no internal development, no natural progress, in our society; new ideas sweep out the old, because they are not derived from the old but come from God knows where. Since all our ideas are ready-made, the indelible trace left in the mind by a progressive movement of ideas, which gives it strength, does not shape our intellect. We grow, but we do not mature; we move, but in a diagonal, that is, a line which does not lead to the desired goal. We are like children who have not been taught to think for themselves when they become adults, they have nothing they can call their own-all their knowledge is on the surface, their soul is not within them. That is precisely our condition. 29

Thus, Russian culture, according to Chaadaev, is “wholly imported and imitative.” At the same time, Chaadaev does not complain that it was imposed on the Russians, but that it did not penetrate deeper, was not assimilated properly, did not become the Russians’ own, and did not take root deep into society.

And the most important thing in this passage: “We don’t have any internal development or natural progress,” Chaadaev complains and hits the target. The picture he describes is a vivid description of the sabotage that the archaic pole carries out in relation to the modern pole, the pole of “progress” and “development.” It is this pole, pole A (Figure 4), that is responsible for the fact that Western influence does not reach the depths of the national soul, does not penetrate beyond the surface layer, does not bring about responsibility, fidelity, or an understanding of ideas, theories, concepts, and teachings.

And further:

…It is obvious that this strange situation, when this people can’t concentrate its thoughts on some set of ideas that would gradually unfold in society and little by little flow from one another, when all its participation in the general movement of the human mind is reduced to a blind, superficial, and very often stupid imitation of other nations, must strongly influence the soul of each person in the people. That is why, as you can see, we all lack some kind of stability, some kind of consistency in the mind, some kind of logic. The syllogism of the West is unfamiliar to us. In our best minds there is something even worse than lightweightedness. The best ideas, devoid of connection and consistency, like barren delusions, are paralyzed in our brains. 30

“The syllogism of the West is unfamiliar to us,” but “the best ideas (meaning the ideas of the West)...are paralyzed in our brains.” That is accurate. Looking from the position of some “perfect” European, who, unlike the rest of the Russians, penetrated the essence of the European spirit, its “syllogism,” and got the opportunity to contemplate this spirit without distortion, Chaadaev really begins to “philosophize,” and his letters in fact deserve the name “philosophical.” But this philosophy belongs to the European hermeneutical circle; it is anything but Russian philosophy. This is non-Russian philosophy and, in his case, openly Russophobic philosophy. It is natural that everything about the Russian people irritated Chaadaev, even its appearance:

I even find that in our look there is something strangely vague, cold, insecure, characteristic of the peoples standing on the lowest levels of the social ladder. In foreign lands, especially in the South, where people are so animated and expressive, I have compared so many times the faces of my fellow countrymen with the faces of local residents and have been struck by the muteness of our faces. 31

The “muteness of Russian faces” arises from the fact that Chaadaev does not find in them something that would be consonant with European history, the European logos, European philosophy. There is no Western discourse in these faces. “And since there is no Western discourse,” Chaadaev concludes, “then there is no other one.”

Chaadaev clearly understands that Russia is outside of history (here again we should recall the connection between history and the history of philosophy substantiated by Heidegger, which are strictly one whole for the people of the West).

Spread between the two great divisions of the world, between East and West, resting one elbow on China, the other on Germany, we should have combined in ourselves the two great principles of spiritual nature, imagination and reason, and unites in our civilization the history of the whole globe. Providence did not give us that role. On the contrary, it was as though it was not at all concerned with our fate. Refusing us its beneficial effects on the human mind, it left us entirely to ourselves; it did not want to interfere in our affairs in anything, did not want to teach us anything. The experience of times does not exist for us. Centuries and generations have been barren for us. Looking at us, we can say that in relation to us the universal law of mankind is nullified. Lonely in the world, we didn’t give anything to the world, we didn’t take anything from the world, we didn’t bring a single thought to the mass of human ideas, we didn’t contribute to the forward movement of human reason, and we distorted everything that we got from this movement. 32

And again a surprisingly insightful remark. Chaadaev sees that the Russians are shying away from history, that is, from time, and gravitating rather to space, “stretching between the two great divisions of the world.” In this he sees Russia’s evil fate. We will see later that these same qualities and the nondiffusion of the “universal law of mankind” on us can be interpreted in a completely different way and imbued with a completely different meaning. In any case, Chaadaev frankly defines in a crystal clear way the direction in which the Russians should go if they want to engage in philosophy, rather than wander in archeomodern dead ends. This direction is associated with entering the European hermeneutical circle and searching for its individual place in it. This route is logical, but it is something other than Russian philosophy. The incompatibility of Russianness and philosophicality Chaadaev himself demonstrates extremely convincingly: in order to philosophize, one must defeat Russianness, first of all, in oneself, and thereby carry out an act of spiritual emigration, moving one’s soul to Europe, the “homeland of syllogism.” Philosophy is not here. “Russian philosophy” is a euphemism or nonsense. Chaadaev poses the dilemma, “Either philosophy, or Russia,” and chooses philosophy. He has every reason for that.

In principle, for our study, Chaadayev’s position is extremely constructive, since with its frank Westernism and Russophobia it discovers archeomodernity, breaks with it and even partially overcomes it in the direction of focus B and further to the very center of the European hermeneutic circle outside Russia.


17. Danilevsky N.Y. Russia and Europe.A Look at the Cultural and Political Relations of the Slavic World to the Romano-German World. St. Petersburg, 1995.-

18. Danilevsky N.Y. Darwinism. A Critical Study. Vols. 1-2. St. Petersburg., 1885-89.

19. Spengler O. Decline of the Europe. Moscow, Mysl’, 1993.

20. Toynbee A. A. Study of History. Moscow: Progress, 1990.

21. Savitsky P.N. Continent Eurasia. Moscow: Agraf, 1997.

22. Trubetskoy N.S. Genghis Khan's legacy. Moscow: Agraf, 1999.

23. Savitsky P. N. Continent Eurasia

24. Trubetskoy N.S. Religions of India and Christianity / Trubetskoy N.S. Genghis Khan's Legacy. pp. 293-328.

25. Florovsky G. Eurasian temptation / Florovsky G. From the Past of Russian Thought. Moscow: Agraf, 1998. pp. 324–325.

26. Florovsky G. Ways of Russian Theology. Kiev: Path to Truth, 1991.

27. Chaadaev P.Ya. Philosophical letters / Chaadaev P.Ya. Complete Works and Selected Letters. Volume 1, Moscow, Publishing House “Science,” 1991.

28. Ibid. pp. 20-21.

29. Ibid. p. 15

30. Ibid. pp. 17-18.

31. Ibid. p.19.

32. Ibid. p.21.

The Philosophers of Archeomodernity. Part.1

The Philosophers of Archeomodernity. Part.2

The Philosophers of Archeomodernity. Part.3