Mara Kiope. The Truth between East and West
I would like to present a critical approach to the widely used, and used including ourselves, view on Baltic countries as being “between” - between East and West.
The word “between” in Webster’s dictionary is explained as meaning “in the middle of two”, where this significance comes from the Old English betweonum - by twain (Old English twegin) or by two. That leads us to self-understanding which actually has been promoted too much long time, and which seems to be justificated by historical experience. So, for Baltic countries to be ‘’between” mostly has intonation of to be impacted, even pressured by those two - East and West. Also, to be obligate to calculate between those two for to survive. At least made by those two like some kind of amorphus stuff, but not being having quality of self-development. This is what could be called the center of some ideology of survivism. Then to split together East, West and Baltics in regarding to historical retrospective of the XXth century appears strange synthesis of ‘’isms” - communism, national socialism and survivism. Then the question arising from the title is - could be the Truth installed between the East and the West? Or may be the Truth for Baltics is survivism? Remembering Pontius Pilatus in the Mel Gibson’s movie “Christ Passions”, when he discusses with his wife: Quid est veritas? What is the Truth? My truth is that, I will be persecuted by higest authorities if there will be once again revolutions in this province, I will loose everything if not take the right decision from my limited viewpoint. The message is clear - calculating thinking dominates the contemplative thinking. Survivism appears to be opposite to the Truth. If to rethink the problem on the basis of religious experience this reminds about missionaries’ chronicles. They oftenly describe situation, when native inhabitants ask missionary: is your God more powerful than our gods? Which “god” or in fact which idol Baltics should prise for to be safe? That of East or that of West, or both of them?
Actually, the life, as once remarked Martin Heidegger, should be renewed by the Truth. And, no doubts the Truth having universal dimension couldn’t be installed somehow or somewhere, for example between East and West. Why not to ask - what philosophy is possible to offer for to open perspective of real freedom and cultural equality with other European nations for the Baltics?
Searching some approaches to possible solution of the question I would like to use as the foundation philosophy of St. Thomas Aquinas in unity with Heidegger-Gadamer hermeneutical line as integral philosophical experience. The very problem of legitimity of this unity lies behind the borders of this essay. Briefly explaining to my mind the most fruitful solutions of the Truth problem in nowdays philosophy are linked with the ontology of language worked out in mentioned hermeneutical tradition of the XXth century. At the same time Being of Language - and exactly recovering the Being of Language surprisingly allows to see Language of Being of St. Thomas Aquinas as having assymmetric bilateral mirroring in dialogical unity. So, possibility of Truth experience could be looked upon in the context of languagity, where the concept of experience refers to very personally existentially colored relationship of the human being with the Truth.
Based on that philosophical foundation will be provided further reflection precisely on the Baltics as Being to which to hear, which to open in alethic behavior for to get the Truth as shining from this specific kind of openness of Being as whole. By the way, word ‘’Baltics” in Latvian as well as in Lithuanian means “white”. And “white” has to be quality of the Light. Once again, is this light comes from the space between East and West or it shines itself and makes light to east and West also? Only if it shines itself it could be harmonized with description of Truth or aletheia as shining of Being. Otherwise, if Baltics is not a special kind of being indeed the Truth can’t be find there.
To my mind the first step is to make the phenomena called Baltic countries experiencable. Experiencability could be described as ability to be experienced.
At first let’s clear from the opposite – what does it mean to say ‘’ not to be experiencable”? It could be explained on following case study. At the beginning of 1990-ies in the world there was a great interest about Baltic countries. But very oftenly it was so surprisingly to read reportages or problem presentations about Baltics. They seemed to be so far from reality here or maybe from our own perception of this reality. Common characteristic feature of those journalistic insights was in use of Baltic facticity as illustration of authors’ own presuppositions, coming from the West modern life thinking structures. Baltic reality was simply field of matching the West society stereotypes and evaluations with facticity pulled up from the every-day life context. Looking historically it is similar to situation, when for instance German thinkers like Herder, but especially Garlibs Merkelis under influence of Enlightment ideas were writing on social disasters of Latvian peasants. They served as illustrations of flagrant barbaric life in the age of Enlightment and flourishing rationalism. They were objects like exotic animals to show the Europe example of unbelievable unjustice and violence against human dignity. However respecting the contribution of Garlibs Merkelis in the Latvian cultural development, but no new experience from his book “Latvians” was given to other Europe. Simply colorful pictures stressing importance of the ideology of the time. That’s to say experiencability was on zero level.
But, what would be than case of experiencability?
For instance, such events as Baltic way in 1989 and bloody events in Riga and Vilnius in January 1991. Thease activities through media have become new experience for all the civilization. What was experiencable in these events? Demonstration, self-appearance of the Truth. Conflict between the aspirations for freedom, aims according to human dignity, unarmed peacfulness and, on the other side, brutal force, empire of evil, resolved in victory of human spirit. This gave new experience of human possibilities in nowdays world suffering from lack of solidarity and from fears - to loose job, to loose a living place, to become sick, to be betrayed by friends and beloved and so on. Actually, what is wanted to be experienced is life itself. So oftenly used in German philosophy of Life term Erlebnis - experience contains also meaning “to be alive when something happens”.
Meanwhile experience is not everything what happens to person. Strictly speaking experience is captured when intellectus or understanding meets apprehension in mind and actively examines it for to abstract entity. And so generating the concept. Intellectus itself is true that’s why it’s possible to be adequate to the thing – veritas est adequatio intellectus et rei, according to Aquinas. So, working in discursive mode intellectus is moving in language environment while reaching satisfactory conclusion. Activity of intellectus is moved by process of questioning in which the human being in its wholeness is involved. If there is questioning at all. Avoiding thinking is very usual and evil guest in nowdays world, a half-century ago said Heidegger. Experience is coming out from activity of intellectus working and playing with things in apprehension and so supporting growing in wisdom. Consequently experience is coming out from activity of intellectus working and playing with things in apprehension and giving new stage of understanding of Life. So, human being could live very long time and surpass very intensive adventures, but not to get much experience, if the questioning and eagerness for Truth are not at stake. Also opposite is right, active intellectual life could lead to new and important experience in every possible situation. “Intellectual life” here doesn’t mean privilege of professional thinkers, but rather is reference to rationality as a specific quality of human being. The thing must be called in accordance to the highest in it, writes St. Thomas. In hileomorphic unity of human person the soul as spiritual substance is the highest, but in soul - the intellective part of it sustaining rational activity. But in nowdays world overwhelmed by consumerism the life became more and more reduced to the lower appetitative and vegetative parts of the soul. The new globalistic anthropology presents the human image as animal hunting for pleasure, for new goods as new experiences of life. To get the goods in fact functions in society as process of getting identity, self-estimation and dreams. By means of advertising providing things’ experiencability with great emotionality people are invited not to buy things, if to say technically, but to receive values - health, safety, freshness, love, all the life, and so also illusive immortality as addition to the big sale. Good life has converted to be life of goods. Consumerism practically has deconstructed basic believes of philosophy since Greek times defending askein or exercising in virtues as the way to the good life. Environmentalists’ claims to choose the way of rational need for to safe the planet sound naive as the intellective part of the soul is blockaded in culture. Moral indifference is indicated by some experts drawing the perspective of globalization, where the Good is not more colored by certain moral or religious tradition. Good then is what is good thing for use, where the very idea about that good could be indoctrinated totally beginning by education system. Is there any Truth in consumerism experience? These signs of the time point at malicious intentions of anthropological reformation without respect to human dignity. So, still, as Simona Weil shows in her “Prologue to the declaration of obligations in respect to the human being” the rootening plays crucial role in human’s searchings for existential identity. Lithuanian writer Romas Striupas claims, I don’t know is this me, who entered in the world or it’s the world who has came in me. But it’s clear for me; however so much common is between my individual and the cosmic world, more much differences are there. But individual self-appearance realizes from rootening which could take place in cultural and religious traditions, so changing as phenomena but stabile in their substances. Philosophy of Life has dealt so much about relationship between the creative element of life and never ending emerging of ready-made forms have became stunned and so hostile to the real life. But this is not the case, as the question remains about roots nourishing intellectual life whose possibilities are grown up by transcending roots. On the other hand, Hanna Arendth notes in her analysis of genesis of totalitarism, that the main factor has been loneliness. It’s evidently is directly linked with unrootedness of all the XXth century.
Returning to the main item of the essay, it’s seems tradition of outlook to the Baltics as being “between” is some kind of tradition of unrootedness. However being-between technically allows to investigate impact of East and of West to the Baltics, but ignores the same being. So, philosophy is able to ontologise that which exists, to renovate intellectually Baltics as self-developing being. If to say, it’s precondition of the baltic experiencability.
Hans Georg Gadamer in his “Truth and method” defines the sense of the Truth experience as providing the growing of Being. But, before at all there must be constituted Being as openness possible to shine the Truth. Actually, people in every experience are searching exactly for the experience of the Truth. Gadamer reminds the connection of the Truth with the Good and the Beautiful. The Good actually is included in the Beautiful as it was showed by Greek term of kaloagathia. And so the Truth has relationship and some similarity with the Beautiful. Aesthetic experience serves as a field of pre-understanding of the Truth experience. The main feature of aesthetic experience, if to remember Roman Ingardens’ approach to, is the force of it stopping every-day life fluency in consciousness. After the aesthetic experience the person must renew its’ connections with the life, must renew the same coordinate-system of the life. The Truth experience in the same mode interrupts all before it and changes life into direction of new stage of understanding or growing of Being. Besides, like observing the Beautiful human being reaches the calm of existential satisfaction, also the Truth gives the peace. It comes from receiving the answer to the deep question. However at the very next moment this peace is destroyed, because intellectus continues searching, as human being is still alive. So, before at all experiencability needs Being to be experienced as communicated.
The question arises about concepts who are at the same time images needed to be captured as experience. What concepts could be offered as relative to nowdays Latvia society? The first ones wandering in mind would be unjustice, poverty, overworking, despire. Corruption could be overviewed as some kind of magic activities instead of rationally clear and lustrative procedure. At the same time in mass-media there is absolutely different reality of nowdays Latvia so called high-society. New and newer nuances of what Pier Bourdie has called the force of symbolic power. Facticity of the life must be taken into philosophy as deeply experienced and reflected by philosopher. But no new experience comes from this for the humanity. Rather perspective solutions in philosophy and with specific means of philosophy are very close to what Rabindranatus Tagore called speaking about transformation of injuries into poesy.
Accounting mentioned ontological aspect and as it was shown by Gadamer that growing of being in life is so comparitable with experience through work of art the question arises about the experiencability of Baltics. Could be Baltics described in some kind as work of Art? To paraphrase basic assumptions of Husserl’s phenomenology not world must be reduced for to get pure intention of being but the darkness in philosopher himself. This is close to what Aquinas stresses - the virtues, purity of life and thinking as preconditions of good hermeneutical work. Philosophy itself could be looked upon as the work of art. Jacques Maritain in is fascinating analysis of art and scholastics cleares that the artism of the philosophers’ work lies in the very thinking. Such self-understanding of philosophy allows to find the way how to hear our own Being and to open its Truth and its Beutiful. Through thease two Baltics could became experiencable for all the humankind.
Baltics as Truth and Beautiful could be experienced as everyone’s own experience of human dignity, existential courage to be and possibilities of freedom in nowdays world for to celebrate them and to win in the battle for everyones’ own growing in Being.