What Is Philosophy?
Vasily Kuzin
DOI: 10.17212/2075-0862-2023-15.1.1-11-34

The article is devoted to the traditional theme – self-determination of philosophy. The author reveals the specifics of philosophy in comparison with other areas of spiritual culture – religion, art and science. The single basis for comparison is their ability to overcome human suffering. The named areas differ in that very ability, each of them helps to overcome suffering in its own special way. For science, the main means of solving life’s problems is knowledge, for religion – faith, for art – imagination, and for philosophy – understanding.

Understanding in this article is considered as a movement towards clear knowledge, towards meaning, and at the same time as the result of such a movement as the achieved meaning. Knowledge clothed in certain, culturally given forms, seems understandable to us. We draw the basic models of understanding from our natural languages. Forms of judgments, cultural universals, and basic theories also give us forms of understanding. Among many forms of understanding, an important role is played by those forms and models that crystallize in the main philosophical categories, such as ‘essence’, ‘whole’, ‘general’, ‘cause’, ‘purpose’, etc.

The peculiarity of philosophical thinking is that understanding in it does not act as a means for further application, but as a direct action, practice. The achieved understanding in itself eliminates suffering and resolves life’s difficulties. In this sense, philosophy as a whole is not a theory, but a practical exercise aimed at making human life happier.

According to the author, the described four ways of overcoming suffering are ‘ideal types’ (M. Weber). On the one hand, science, religion, art and philosophy in their historical practices can be characterized by this or that degree of syncretism. On the other hand, there are cases when the ‘official rubric’ of a particular sphere of culture and its content do not coincide: for example, philosophy is practiced under the name ‘religion’, scientific research is carried out under the name ‘philosophy’, and art is created under the name ‘science’.

Transformation of the Concept of “Metanoia” in the Religious Tradition
Julia Ustyugova
DOI: 10.17212/2075-0862-2023-15.1.1-35-43

The article analyzes the ancient concept of ‘metanoia’ in the religious and philosophical tradition, carries out a historical and philosophical reconstruction of the term. The author considers the concept of ‘metanoia’ in the context of the problem of the relationship between mind and body. Tracing the transformation of the concept, coming from Aristotle, the author of the article shows that the Eastern religious tradition understands repentance as the integration of the divine mind, which exists separately, into the human body and the beginning of its existence according to new laws. Western scholasticism, following Aristotle, separates the active divine and passive human minds, but denies their union in the body, endowing repentance with a supra-individual meaning, interpreting it as a kind of turn towards the Divine light that occurs outside the physical body and is not the result of a genuine experience of union with Christ. The author considers understanding of the concept of ‘metanoia’ by such theologians as Gregory Palamas, Clement of Alexandria, Thomas Aquinas. It is concluded that the problem of the bodily localization of the mind, the essence of the mind, is closely related to the problem of repentance and the historical transformation of the concept of ‘metanoia’.

The Metaphysical Sense of Orientalism Criticism in the Writings of René Guénon
Nataliya Kanaeva,  Artyom Shikov,  Grigoriy Vasilyev
DOI: 10.17212/2075-0862-2023-15.1.1-44-60

This article is devoted to the critical arguments against orientalism put forward by the French mystic Réne Guénon (1886–1951) in his three books: A General Introduction to the Study of Hindu Teachings (1921), East and West (1924), Man and His Realization according to Vedanta (1925), and in the paper Eastern Metaphysics (1925). These arguments have rarely attracted the attention of researchers, and yet they occupy an important place in the methodology of Génon's justification of his “true metaphysics” which is one more attempt to return to man his proper human existence, broken in the modern world into different forms – Eastern and Western civilizations. The two types of civilizations are in a state of ruinous confrontation all the time. In the introduction of the article, Guénon’s anti-orientalist ideas are correlated with the criticism of orientalism by E. Said (1935–2003), which had a great influence on Oriental studies of the second half of the twentieth century. The main part touches on the cultural context of the esotericist’s ideological search, and it marks the source of his metaphysics in the idea of contrasting Modernity and Tradition.

Guénon criticizes the widespread belittling of traditional Eastern cultures by the Western people, and the “dogmas” of civilization, progress and the existence of only one type of humanity moving along the steps of the only possible progress based on reason and rational sciences. For the thinker, the understanding of culture as the progress is flawed, and Western civilization is not a model for the other civilizations, but it is an anomaly of development. As long as the Westerners in general, and the Orientalist scientists, in particular, who study the East with prejudice, without the desire to reach a genuine understanding of the meanings of Tradition as a form of integral metaphysical knowledge, do not get rid of their “dogmas”, the confrontation between East and West will persist. Guénon often finds his critical arguments in the works of professional orientalists (Eugène Burnouf, Max Müller) and philosophers (G.W. Leibniz). He demonstrates the mistakes they made which destroy the foundations of the orientalist approach.

Word as an Event in Buddhist and Taoist Cultures
Irina Rodicheva
DOI: 10.17212/2075-0862-2023-15.1.1-61-73

The article is devoted to a special attitude to the word as a corpuscle of a cultural event which not only forms the ancient Eastern traditions, but is also one of the mechanisms of the system of non-local connections that create a philosophical understanding of a particular text, event and culture in general. The paper discusses the problem of interpretation and understanding of texts which is inextricably linked with the reach of the fundamental principles of the Eastern philosophy, focuses on the attitude to the word in Taoist and various directions of Buddhist cultures, and also describes the differences in the comprehension and perception of ancient Eastern philosophy between European researchers and Buddhist scholars.

The author notes that the discrepancy in the meanings of understanding Buddhist texts lies much deeper and comes not only from the difference in mentalities, since the semantic load of a philosophical treatise correlates with the concept of ‘spiritual integrity’, but is also significantly related to differences in understanding and comprehension of the alphabetic and hieroglyphic writing systems. The question is raised that a holistic perception of the text for a European researcher will inevitably slip away, since he/she tries to reveal the meaning of the canon only by the categories of rational presentation. The influence of the Taoist terminological apparatus in the translation of Buddhist canonical texts into Chinese is shown. It is emphasized that the main principle of the translation of the early texts of the Mahayana is the selection of a Taoist term that is suitable in meaning. In this context, attention is focused on the fact that the relationship between the semantic and stylistic content of Buddhist and Taoist canonical texts is one of the basic elements necessary for a deep understanding of the primary sources of ancient Eastern philosophy.

The text pays special attention to the teachings of the Madhyamika, notes its role in the history of Buddhism as well as the certain mechanisms of deprofanation of the word developed by this philosophical school are considered that they contribute to a high ‘inclusion’ in the natural world and are based on the Mahayana postulate of the primacy of personal spiritual experience over all other epistemological strategies. Attention is paid to the fact that focusing on nature itself is basic among Buddhist ideas that came from China in the philosophy of Zen Buddhism in Japan.

As a result of the study, the author notes that the obvious semantic load of the word led the Buddhist and Taoist cultures not only to the formation of a strong immunity to the profaning of the word itself, but also to the practice of limiting the written and verbal activity of representatives of these cultures.

Existence and Being as a Whole in Interpretations of Parmenides’ Poem
Alexander Gorev
DOI: 10.17212/2075-0862-2023-15.1.1-74-86

The article discusses two main existing options for interpreting the concept of being in Parmenides’ poem. The first option is more traditional: quantitative monism, where existence is the only form of being. The second option is more modern: the predicative monism, where there are many types of being, but each of them is strictly defined by its essence. Both options are illustrated by the example of modern works by M.N. Wol’f, as well as in the example of a new translation by E.V. Afonasin. The close connection of the two variants is shown, almost inextricable, judging by the text of the poem, which allows for various translations. The article discusses the fundamental options for reading the ‘οὖλον’ (dense / whole), ‘µουνογενές’ (only-begotten / homogeneous) and the number of possible commas in the fragment ‘µοῦ πᾶν ἕν συνεχές’, which affects the result of counting the types of being. Based on the work of I.V. Berestov, the article shows that both interpretations have a common basis in the form of the concept of the whole. The whole can be considered both as one, which corresponds to quantitative monism, and as an absolute whole, having many parts, each of which is a separate relative whole: the being, which corresponds to predicative monism. This common ground allows us to consider both interpretations of Parmenides’ concept of being together. The author insists on just such an examination of the poem in order to come to a more definite conclusion about the nature of being. There is no contradictory opposition between these options, which would lead to a contradiction when they are considered together. It is noted that the whole is the one and at the same time indivisible, which does not negate the mandatory presence of its parts, which are separated from each other. Thanks to the concept of the whole, one can see the mutual interweaving of predicative (essential) monism, quantitative (existential) monism, and even, if desired, holistic (substantial) monism. Holistic monism assumes the whole as the only substance underlying the entire universe.

The Unity and Multiplicity of the Cosmogonic Process in Empedocles’ Poem*
Gamid Magomedov
DOI: 10.17212/2075-0862-2023-15.1.1-87-104

Among the ancient Greek philosophers Empedocles is the one who attempted to create a complete picture of the world, taking into account the knowledge of the thinkers who preceded him. It is an entire philosophical system that explores eternal and true principles and seeks to discover the causes of the being of all things and at the same time to explain their empirical becoming. It is a theory of the cosmic cycle, an eternal alternation in which the four elements that are the roots of all things--earth, air, water and fire--interact with the opposing forces of Love and Enmity, both in macrocosmic and microcosmic perspective. Empedocles does not give preference to any of the four elements, as had been done before him, but gives each of them their proper place. He introduces acting forces, by means of which he explains the reasons for the appearance and destruction of the world, and, moreover, in his views one can see the foundations of future conceptions of an impersonal law. Because of the fragmentary nature of the poem’s text, however, it is still not easy for us to grasp Empedocles’ thought consistently. Based on his own observations and taking into account the knowledge accumulated by previous generations of scholars, the author tries to offer his own reconstruction of the cosmogonic process presented in Empedocles’ poem. The reconstruction is carried out taking into account new fragments from the Strasbourg papyrus, thanks to which we have at our disposal a rather long and coherent piece of text, which makes a significant contribution to understanding the philosopher’s thought. The emphasis of the article is on the physical exposition of the poem with the application of philological methods and the subsequent interpretation of Empedocles’ verses. The physics of unity and multiplicity within the interaction of the forces of Love and Enmity and the four roots is reconstructed. The article also considers the didactic component of the poem, showing that Empedocles does not think of himself as separate from sensual nature, and that he and his disciple Pausanias are aware of their full involvement in the universal cosmogonic process.

Criticism of Religion in the Philosophy of the Sophists
Vladimir Brovkin
DOI: 10.17212/2075-0862-2022-14.4.1-56-69

The article deals with the socio-historical conditions of the formation of criticism of religion in the philosophy of sophists. It is shown that there were two directions in the religious criticism of the sophists. The first direction was associated with religious agnosticism. Protagoras defended the idea of the incomprehensibility of the gods. The statements of Gorgias and Xeniades contributed to the strengthening of religious skepticism. The second direction was connected with the development of theories of the origin of religion. Prodicus and his idea of the deification of useful things by ancient people is one of the first attempts at a rational explanation of the origin of religion. Critias’ idea that the gods were invented in order to maintain public order challenged the entire religious consciousness of the Greeks. The theories of Prodicus and Critias contributed to the development of ancient atheism. It is established that the sophists adhered to an ambivalent position on the question of attitude to religion. On the one hand, the sophists did not seek to destroy religious institutions. They recognized the value of religion because they considered it one of the benefits of civilization. According to sophists, religion plays an important role in the life of society. It supports moral norms, laws and order. On the other hand, the views of the sophists posed a great danger to traditional religious beliefs. The views of the sophists contributed to the doubt of the existence of gods and the weakening of religious beliefs. It is established that the Peloponnesian War played an important role in the formation of the religious criticism of the sophists. The destructive nature of the Peloponnesian War led to the decline of moral and religious norms. The plague in Athens, the cases of genocide, the triumph of brute force and lawlessness contributed to the growth of distrust of public institutions and disillusionment with religion. All this created favorable conditions for the development of moral and ethical relativism and religious skepticism in the philosophy of sophists.

Elusive Hermes: The Problem of Identification of Hermes and Thoth and the Mystery Aspect of Hermeticism
Anastasia Zolotukhina
DOI: 10.17212/2075-0862-2022-14.4.1-70-82

The article treats the history of the identification of the Greek Hermes and the Egyptian Thoth, which eventually brought to existence the figure of Hermes Trismegistus, the founder of Hermeticism. The treatment of the complex genesis of this figure is connected with the solution of an important question for understanding the phenomenon of Hermeticism: what significance did   Hermeticism grant to the mystery component? The problem stems from the structure of the Hermetic Corpus itself, which consists of philosophical texts of Greek origin and esoteric texts dating back to the Egyptian tradition. The history of Hermeticism is traced in the article as the history of the mutual influence of Ancient Egypt and Ancient Greece. Through the figure of Pythagoras I establish a connection between Pythagoreanism, Hermes and Egyptian mysteries.  Plato, then, gives an original view of Hermes and Thoth; the next step is a transition to the Hellenistic Egypt, where the two deities were identified. The final step is the first evidence of Hermes Trismegistus and its origin. The article examines the reasons and possibilities for such an identification: the main functions of Hermes and Thoth, which at first glance are identical, present some discrepancies. First, the function of psychopompos: I draw attention to the concept of memory, power upon which is unique to the Greek Hermes; second, the power upon word, logos: while Hermes has the realm of the spoken word, Thoth is associated with the written text and thus magic (magical Egyptian practices are based on the power of the written word). The metamorphosis of Hermes from god to daimon and, finally, to man is also important (on the basis of the evidence of Plato and later hermetic mythology): this provided Hermes with the opportunity to become a central figure and conductor of mystical teachings, like Orpheus.

Comparative Analysis of Zen Philosophy: Rinzai and Soto
Olga Novikova,  Irina Rodicheva
DOI: 10.17212/2075-0862-2022-14.4.1-83-97

The practical methods of studying Zen, known as ‘pure zazen’ and the ‘koan method’ of the Buddhist schools of Rinzai and Soto are subjected to comparative analysis. This study focuses on the comprehension of Zen philosophy, and also analyzes the basic attitudes regarding the difference from the old Buddhist schools in Japan: practical activity, self-improvememt and indifference to death come first, as well as new aesthetic norms and ideals. Simplicity, the absence of any authority, the absence of rituals and anti-intellectualism corresponded to the spirit of the era when the once unshakable moral values were collapsing. Comparing the two Buddhist schools, the authors of the article note that the distinguishing feature of Soto, founded in Japan by Dogen, is absolute immersion in the meditative practice of ‘Silent illumination of Zen’ (黙想 mokuso), which outlines the path to enlightenment through sitting meditation. At the same time the emphasis is placed on the fact that this is a complex and not fast process of passing through certain stages in comprehending the teaching. Rinzai Zen in Japan is most associated with learning through koan work, and the origin of this practice dates back to master Linji from the time of the Song dynasty, namely Daie Soko, who collected and arranged all the major koans in a specific order for ease of use. But the very practice of comprehending the teaching is distinguished by its rather harsh and cruel methods, since the teachers considered it necessary to tear the student out of everyday life and the fastest way is to hit or to shout at a person. It was this philosophical practice of Rinzai Zen that was spread in Japan by Eisai.

As a result of the study, the authors came to the conclusion that the masters of the Rinzai school proclaim the importance of ‘sudden enlightenment’, and the masters of the Soto school teach to follow the path of ‘progressive enlightenment’, and thus Soto and Rinzai become Zen schools that use opposite methods to achieve insight.

Genesis of Foolishness in the Byzantine Tradition
Evgeniya Sharabarina
DOI: 10.17212/2075-0862-2022-14.4.1-98-119

In this article, an attempt was made to make a preliminary religious analysis of the phenomenon of foolishness from the perspective of the modern methodology of the Dutch researcher J. Waardenburg. It was noted that earlier in the Russian science of religion, this phenomenon practically did not become an independent object of study. The systematic concept of J. Waardenburg assumes a consistent consideration of religious facts from the perspective of four approaches of equal importance: historical, comparative, contextual and hermeneutic. The collection and primary analysis of empirical data is a necessary and preliminary condition for a full-fledged study of the phenomenon of foolishness. Foolishness arises in Byzantine society and is perceived ambiguously by the contemporaries. The article indicates the sources of the phenomenon of foolishness in the Byzantine tradition: ancient cynicism in the person of Diogenes Laertius, healed the demoniacs who spend a lot of time near temples, Old Testament prophets. This work also reflects the historical process of the gradual separation of foolishness as an independent rank of holiness. Its biblical justification is the multiple references on the pages of the Gospel to the madness of the world and the wisdom of the unwise. The fact that the foolishness was known to the culture of the Romans is evidenced by the fact of the spread of the phenomenon of false ugliness, which the official Church tried to fight. The reason for the appearance of foolishness in Byzantium can be called the extinction of spiritual life after its rise in the first centuries of the spread of Christianity. The tradition of honoring extraordinary ascetics, as well as the formation of iconography, was slow. Only at the end of the VIII century the process began to gain momentum, which was connected with the approval at the Seventh Ecumenical Council of the veneration of saints as a necessary element of Christian dogmatics. In the Byzantine Church, six holy fools were canonized. Despite their small number, the hagiographic literature of Christian ascetics of the first centuries often offers examples of episodic foolishness. The article concludes that the genesis of foolishness in the Byzantine tradition required a long time for its development. In Russian culture the phenomenon of foolishness has found its full-fledged development, becoming an integral part of Russian culture. The author assumes, that this phenomenon requires its further empirical study as an objective religious fact.