Editorial: Philosophy in an Age of Crisis: Challenges and Prospects Part II The Transcendent Sphere of the Human World: Art, Religion, Knowledge
This is the second consecutive Dialogue and Universalism issue displaying the recent legacy of the International Society for Universal Dialogue, a legacy whose main theme is PHILOSOPHY IN AN AGE OF CRISIS: CHALLENGES AND PROSPECTS. The present issue is subtitled, THE TRANSCENDENT SPHERE OF THE HUMAN WORLD: ART, RELIGION, KNOWLEDGE, and contains papers addressing the most expressive areas of human spirituality, in other words, the narrower sphere of transcendence: art, religious and mystical beliefs, and cognition which is expressed in language and carries intellectual values (which, incidentally, are notoriously under-addressed). According to traditional beliefs, these three areas are distinct from others, most “distin- guished” in the sphere which transcends human biology, and hence possess the highest value in the hierarchical structure of the human world. For centuries it was believed (and, in fact, still is believed today in conserva- tive religious circles) that entry into the transcendental sphere took place by itself, spontaneously and independently of all influence—e.g., through religious revelations—at a certain stage of human development. Entry into this narrower area of transcendence was thought to sublimate humans intellectually or emo- tionally. Art, religion and intellectual cognition were seen as momentous steps on mankind’s path towards overcoming the limitations of its own biology and the attainment of human elevation and dignity. This was so because in Western civilisation, already since ancient Greece, biology was not considered to belong to the sphere of true humanity, but believed to be the residue of the animalistic in man. Other areas of transcendence, including the entire public sphere—social relations, cultural customs, economic and political principles—were held to be stigmatised by that what was bad and worthless in humans, and occupied an inferior position in the hierarchy of the spheres of transcendence. Over the history of Western civilisation spirituality was usually set apart from ordinary human life and its mundane dealings. Characteristic here was the elevation of the spirit, which stood free of the trudge of daily life and soared towards the highest and most “pure” humanity. Contemporary conceptions of the created human world and man contested these beliefs in a radical way. Today it is rather commonly believed that tran- scendence, although it transgresses human biology, is nonetheless rooted in it and supported by it, not only with regard to its origins but also in its continued existence. Despite its specific autonomy, transcendence does not lose its com- plex ties to biology. Even Edmund Husserl, who appears to be far removed from biologism, is of the opinion that human spirituality is founded on the hu- man physis and all individual psychic life on human corporeality, hence every community bases on the physical bodies of the humans who belong to it.1 The relations between religion, art, intellectual cognition and the rest of the human world, including human corporeality, are dialectic—at once antagonistic and symbiotic. The distancing of these spheres from one another and resulting reinforcement of the differences between them interweaves with their mutual influencing and permeation. In other words, art, religion and science are not isolated in their respective ivory towers, but shaped by social and political thought and the very existence of human individuals, and all that belongs to the unified human world. At the same time, as if by feedback, art, religion and cog- nition co-form the entire human world. To sum up, today the sphere of subli- mated spirituality has been brought down to earth, and the illusory walls that separated it from the rest of the human world have been demolished, or at least penetrated. The fusion of the narrower transcendent sphere with the rest of the world is not a product of our times. It has always taken place, albeit to a lesser degree than today, and has remained unseen only because of the normative enclosure of religion, art and intellectual cognition in their respective ivory towers (where, incidentally, they ran the risk of becoming sterile). Contemporary reality has openly and declaratively done away with their iso- lation from the entire Lebenswelt, and has bound them together. Especially fluid today are the boundaries between theoretical cognition and cognition that is manipulated and exploited by forces alien to science. It is also difficult to sepa- rate intellectual goals from those that serve science-distant interests. Artistic activity does not only involve the creation of and/or search for beauty, but is also an instrument used to cope—with the help of new aesthetic means—with the world of the human individual and the public spheres. It is also a powerful tool by which to shape individual and collective awareness. Contemporary reli- gions and mythologies appear to be chiefly social movements, much more than before engaged in quite “earthly” matters connected with the public sphere and individual human existence. An example is the surprisingly vast attention paid to corporeality in Catholicism. One can ask what caused this change in the functioning and positioning of these three spheres. Are the transformations taking place in art, religion and intellectual cognition a natural phase in their evolution? Or symptoms of the crisis they have found themselves in following the breakdown of their centuries- long identity? If the latter, what has caused the crisis? Such fundamental ques- tions cannot be answered in this limited collection of essays and studies, and, moreover, seeing as these changes are in statu nascendi, it is difficult to forward any reliable hypotheses in the matter at all. The material contained in this Dialogue and Universalism only indirectly heralds changes in the identity of religion, art and intellectual cognition and the end of their mutual isolation in the human world. It includes papers presented at the 2018 ISUD congress in Lima, Peru, and other writings. As we declared in the previous Dialogue and Universalism issue, also admitted have been authors who are not ISUD members and who were not in Lima at the ISUD congress. This way, this issue will become part of the wide and open ISUD legacy.