From the mirages of social cognition

The article raises the relevant problem of searching for a fundamentally new methodology of social cognition that will adequately reflect the realities of modern society, which represents a qualitatively different formation in comparison with the previous ones – innovative, highly dynamic, polyphonic, paradoxical and even absurd. We are at the «threshold» of an unknown social reality. The course of social development itself refutes the classical reductionist attitudes of social philosophy and proves their inconsistency in their striving for absolutism, their lifelessness and even inhumanity and danger, leading to many ideological aberrations, social tension and social cataclysms. Conclusions are drawn that the society of the twenty-first century needs qualitatively new paradigms of social cognition and understanding. This is a completely different naturalness, different sociality, different «humanity».

The world of today appears before us in an entirely new quality – innovative, dynamic, polyphonic, paradoxical and even absurd. Compared with the recent past, this is a completely different world. It is a completely different naturalness, different sociality, different «humanity».

Man and the world... Man in the world... The world in man... The world of man... Even for a philistine, such topics require a special concentration of thought, maximum imagination, considerable intellectual effort and stress in developing their own positions and judgments. As for the special «cohort», the special «caste» of people, called «brahmanas» in the Indian culture, «philosophers» in the Greek, «khakims» in the Arabic culture, for them deep reflection is their nature, a natural essence, it is not just questions that require an obligatory answer, but rather, on the contrary, fixation on a new questioning as the main focus and the meaning of life.

The man and the world in which he dwells and does he dwell there? Perhaps this is a general illusion or the Great Buddhist Void? Or is a person, still being in the world, unable to penetrate, explain, understand it? Hence the understanding of the famous Kantian question, which he posed after the philosophical scandal of Hume and Berkeley and which has been declared the main philosophical question: What can I (a person) know (about the world)?

As it is known, the rational development and formulation of the basic question of philosophy – the question of the relation of thinking to being – accounts for Marxist philosophy. It has two dimensions: ontological and epistemological. For all the importance and seriousness of the ontological aspect, which, perhaps, will never be resolved, epistemology as the issue of the relation of man to the world has a proper philosophical context. Moreover, it is the second side of this issue that, in fact, is the first one, capable of resolving the doubts of the first side. Therefore, from the very beginning of philosophical thought, the issue/problem of man's cognition of the world is fundamental, as, being especially difficult, it is also the cornerstone, determining, methodological, from the answer to which the diversity of all philosophical constructions and discourses stems.

From here, the main Kantian questions are perfectly understandable, answering to which the ancestor of the German classics with a large degree of skepticism turned over the positions established at that time, which the pre-Kantian dogmatic and even «despotic» philosophy [1; 74] used. He turned its «face» to the subject active in the activity.

What can I know? Responding to it, Kant involuntarily returns to the Socratic «Know yourself!». But this by no means sounds like the Socratic refusal of studying nature, of godless natural philosophy. You can not know the gods in the language of human stupidity.

Kant has it different. Without renouncing the sciences (Kant lived in the era of the European Enlightenment), the German philosopher comes to the conclusion that science studies the world phenomenologically, without going beyond the limits of human imagination, sensually and rationally arranging everything the human way. Therefore, learning the world, the subject does not work with the world, but with his attitude to the world, learning himself. As for the reason claiming philosophical reflection, in this connection he expresses himself in his magnum opus with the self-explanatory title «Critique of Pure Rea- son»: «By this I don't mean a critique of books and systems, I am talking about a critique of the faculty of reason as such, in regard to every attempt it might make to gain knowledge independently of all experience. That critique will yield a decision about whether any metaphysics is possible, and will settle what its sources are and what its limits are - all this being extracted from first principles» [1; 76].

Thus, Kant not only actualized the epistemological question, not only placed the active cognitive subject at the forefront, thereby making the «Copernican revolution», but also drew attention to the importance of developing an effective, perfect instrument of cognition - the method.

Even ancient philosophers expressed the need for the application of methods of cognition. True, the branched methodology had not yet developed there, but the philosophical basis for this was already being laid. As for the theocentric periods, hermeneutics, dogmatics, exegesis were the main methods of cognition, or rather, of the knowledge of God. But the question of the methodology of cognition became particularly acute in the era of science-centrism.

It would seem that as early as at the beginning of the Modern Age, there was a final breakthrough in the epistemological problems, to which the great Newton, who «ripped away the cover» of mysticism from the world enchanted with the great divine mystery and surrounding the person, made an unprecedented effort and introduced nature as a huge mechanism started by the Divine Absolute. The optimistic knowledge of God was replaced by an equally optimistic scientific knowledge, forming an ambivalent relationship between them. The golden mean in the difficulties of the cognitive process was found: through the discovery of the laws of nature, man will come to the solution of the Divine Truth.

The Modern Age, therefore, teaches the history of philosophy a new lesson in the original syncretization of religion, philosophy and science, and the philosopher-worshiper (in one person) firmly believes that science (along with philosophy and religion) is designed to describe and explain the world by laws of its own existence.

Such a person's confidence in his own abilities and capabilities, hard won by the tragic history of cognition, soon began to be replaced by his self-confidence with the explicit position of the anthropic vision of the world, according to which we «see the universe, because only in such a universe could be an observer, a man». And this man is none other than the subject of knowledge. Therefore, the world in which man has appeared and lives (at least in the terrestrial galaxy) is arranged in the human way, it meets all human needs, including cognitive ones. Perhaps, there are different laws in other galaxies, but in ours there are purely human ones. Undoubtedly, the anthropic principle itself was formulated in the science of the twentieth century (Brandon Carter), but, apparently, it was this principle of the structure of our universe that was meant by the science of the Modern Age.

Hence, the reductionist principles of the epistemology of the Modern Age are formed, which are, I think, conditioned by the natural possibilities of the human mind with its a priori attitudes. Such a human attitude, for example, includes a linear paradigm, forced to seek its beginning in all processes of the universe, thereby setting a vector of one-dimensional development.

How can this be explained? Perhaps, as it was noted, this is explained by an already predetermined (a priori) stereotype of human thought, as Kant believes with his inherent German pedantry, as well as Hegel after him, leveling the sporadic connections of the world. And maybe our mind (reason) is linear in itself? It does not exclude the psychological component of man - the desire for hedonism in everything, including heuristic activity. That is, is the subject geared for comfort and convenience? (By the way, in classical philosophical theories, for some reason, the psychologization of social and philosophical analysis, reducing a person to faceless, soulless atoms, elements, structures, relationships, etc. has always been condemned. Looking ahead, I would like to note that similar, depersonalizing man's classical interpretations are replaced in post- nonclassical philosophical constructions and discourses with an understanding of man primarily as a person, as a carrier of the psyche).

Be that as it may, it turned out that man is inclined to discover a one-line algorithm in everything, to align all variety and diversity of the surrounding world «in line». Even when it comes to infinity, man dreams that the boundaries of the beginning and the end are inherent in infinity. (There is a well-known historical fact about which Yu. M. Antonovskiy reports, that after Giordano Bruno spoke about the infinity of the Universe and the multiplicity of worlds in the era of the European Renaissance, Johannes Kepler «was dizzy when reading the works of the famous Italian, and secret horror covered him at the thought that he, perhaps, wanders in a space where there is no center, no beginning and no end» [2; 24].

All this indicates that such a linear attitude of the cognizing subject was closely connected with the emerging anthropocentric landmarks that dominated and determined the nature of scientific epistemology until the end of the XIX - early XX centuries and which Friedrich Nietzsche referred to as «human, all too human» (This was said, of course, with respect to ethical issues, but in epistemology there was an attitude similar to that).

Such «too human» orientations of the classical scientific paradigm included the following: the sharp separation of the subject and the object of the cognitive process, the principles of rigid determinism, absoluteness, certainty of the results of cognition, epistemological optimism, total metaphysic character, straightforwardness, idealization and even conjuncture (it is no coincidence that in regard to the latter social epistemology arose in the philosophy of science of the XX century).

«Too human orientations» of the classical epistemology led, in particular, to the fact that the French scientist Pierre Laplace, having experienced the influence of scientific theories of the Modern Age, especially the Newtonian theory of universal gravitation, put forward the idea that the universe is a strictly deterministic object that excludes all uncertainty. Laplace was sure that all the processes of the universe can be accurately predicted provided that man succeeds in discovering the scientific laws of its functioning and if its initial parameters in a certain period of time are known. Such a rigid determinism allowed Laplace to go further and argue that similar laws exist for everything, including for a clear definition, accurate forecasting of social processes in general, and human behavior in particular, which later became known as Laplacian mechanistic determinism. This optimistic position and cognitive situation are largely justified if we consider matter as a lifeless mass, which is driven by some external force, by which classical science based on the Newtonian mechanics was generally characterized. As it turned out later, classical science was thus based on working with ideal objects existing in closed, isolated systems.

And social cognition was also subject to the «charm» of the «Laplacian determinism». One of the first to think about the differences between the sciences about nature and about the person (spirit) was a serious developer of scientific methodology, one of the founders of the Modern Age, the famous author of «The Great Instauration» and «The New Organon» Francis Bacon. But it historically emerged that European philosophical thought in the XVII-XIX centuries focused primarily on the need to develop a methodology for natural science knowledge, identifying any scientific knowledge with it. Hence the universal criteria of science in general have grown: objectivity, reliability, verifiability, uniqueness, practicality, rationality.

The question arises: is the linear paradigm of thinking capable of developing an effective methodology of scientific knowledge? Philosophy, being an endless questioning, continues: and what is meant by scientific knowledge? Hence - is it about natural science or social cognition? And so on. There are more and more questions. And in order not to go into the «bad infinity» of philosophical questions, it is necessary to «break this infinity» and have to find answers. This is what science and philosophy are engaged in throughout the glorious history of their existence.

The philosophical and scientific thought acquired special sharpness and intensity in the end of the XIX century, when the picture of the world, drawn by classical science, began to be questioned, when new discoveries in natural science occurred, which became known in the history of science as a «crisis of physics». The Newtonian physics unexpectedly discovered its limitations, non-dialecticism, involuntarily appearing as a prerequisite for the discovery of the Einstein's theory of relativity. But while such scientific discoveries demonstrated only the relativity of cognition, the discovery of the German physicist Werner Heisenberg in the field of the quantum world pointed to the fundamental unknowability, up to the uncertainty (for the human mind) of the natural processes of the microcosm. I dare to assume, by the way, that this idea also existed inthe works of the «classic king» Immanuel Kant in the form of a «thing-in-itself», which is a noumenon and is outside the phenomenal (perceived by man) world. This is what is beyond the limits of scientific reason.

Thanks to W. Heisenberg it turned out that in the world of macrobodies the person is able to determine their coordinates in space and time, without affecting them in any way. But in the microcosm of quantum phenomena this is practically impossible, since, by measuring the parameters, we influence the system as a whole. The very process of measuring, for example, the position of a particle in space, will inevitably affect its speed, and it is unpredictable, that is, it will not be possible to calculate it. In other words, in order to measure a certain value of a micro-object, it is necessary to apply a certain energy of the measuring device for this purpose, and the more accurate measurement is required, the more energy is applied accordingly; the applied energy acts on the object, affects its parameters, which, in the end, hinders the accurate measurement. In a word, we are talking about a fundamental uncertainty in the knowledge of the elementary physical world and even about reaching the boundaries of scientific knowledge. Such a discovery certainly questioned the Laplacian optimism regarding obtaining a rigidly deterministic model of the universe.

Thus, at the turn of the XIX and XX centuries, in all areas of knowledge, both in the natural sciences and in the humanities, absolutely new trends in development were revealed, which testified to the more complex functioning of the world of nature and society, the presence in it of such factors as relativity, subjectivism, irrationalism, randomness and even uncertainty. In quantum physics, the antiproton was discovered, proving the fact that matter exists in two forms - as a particle and an antiparticle. This led to fundamental changes in the natural scientific picture of the world. And this was further aggravated by cardinal changes in the world of human activity, conditioned by the same scientific achievements and the complication of the human world.

As a result, in the middle of the XX century, a post-non-classical picture of the world emerges in all fields of knowledge, both in the natural sciences and in the humanities, revealing the presence in the world of such factors as relativity, subjectivism, irrationalism, dissipation, fractality, randomness and even uncertainty. But we must not allow the new frightening postmodernist trend of «inflation of truth», in which the leveling of the possibility of cognition of the world in connection with the discovery of relativistic concepts of truth occurs.

It is about developing new post-non-classical paradigms of cognition. It especially affected the social and human sciences, focused not just on the explanation or description of man in society, but on his understanding. Such new post-non-classical social paradigms include social heterology, whose conception comes down to debunking the metaphysics of presence and dealing with existence itself. And it is not about not seeing in reality any foundation, but to derive it from the most complex dynamics of sociality. If we adhere to this approach, then being will be regarded as the foundation of things in existence not in the sense of possession, obtaining, but in the sense of belonging. These are the motives of post-fundamentalism [3].

From here, completely different models of the ontology of the mind are derived, the opposite ideals of rationality - rationality by means of the divine or natural reason, rationality by means of the human reason or rationality by means of the whole human consciousness. Thus, classical science stated an absolutely unambiguous ontology of the mind, which observes objective physical processes and phenomena that function according to the laws used to build scientific knowledge. This was the universally accepted classical ideal of rationality. In the non-classical scientific knowledge that arose in the XX century, there arises the problem of the ideal of rationality, which is rooted in the latest scientific changes, leading to the introduction of the phenomenon of consciousness into the new ideal of rationality.

In other words, the science of the XX century, and especially of the XXI century, reveals the special complexity of the phenomenon of consciousness in comparison with the classical ideas about it. The trivial proof of this is, for example, the attempts of humanity, still not successful, to create an artificial intellect, which classical natural science optimistically declared. No modern supersophisticated computer has not in the slightest approached the configuration and functioning of the human brain, even in its simplest functions, for example, observation.

Observation as the initial function of the human brain in the cognition of the world, as the realization of certain abstractions of consciousness and simply as a concept today is decisive in modern sciences, not only physical (the theory of relativity, quantum physics and others) but also humanitarian ones (ontology, anthropology, sociology, psychology).

Modern science is increasingly convinced that all objective physical phenomena and processes must be considered together with subjective processes, conscious actions of people and phenomena. This will happen only if the ontology of rationally comprehensible phenomena is expanded, and the entire conscious and mental area is included in them.



  1. Kant, I. (1966). Kritika chistoho razuma. Predislovie k pervomu izdaniiu [Critique of Pure Reason. Preface to the first edition]. (Vol. 1-6; Vol. 3). Moscow: Mysl [in Russian].
  2. Antonovskii, U.M.(2014). Dzhordano Bruno. Eho zhizn i filosofskaia deiatelnost [Diorddano Bruno. His life and philosophical activity]. Moscow: Prospekt [in Russian].
  3. Kerimov, T.X. (2016). Preodolenie metafiziki: predposylki i orientiry [Overcoming of metaphysics: preconditions and guidelines]. Intellekt. Innovatsii. Investitsii –Intellect. Innovation. Investments, 10, 23-25 [in Russian].
Year: 2018
City: Karaganda
Category: Philosophy