Philosophy of politics (1)


First, let us consider the nature of this discipline and what it studies. If we look at the history of philosophy and political systems, we will see the following regularity. Philosophy and politics, from the very beginning, from the very birth of these two disciplines, developed not only in parallel, but inseparably from one another. Among the first of the Seven Wise Men, who are considered the founders of the philosophical tradition of the Greek Pre-Socratics, are many, including Solon, who are famous for writing political laws, constitutions, criminal codes, who were essentially political actors, representing their cities, their political units. So at the very beginning of the history of philosophy, we see an inseparable connection between philosophy and politics. Hence, politics as a separate phenomenon, disconnected from philosophy, studied for instance by philosophical methods, is a completely different approach.
In fact, the philosophy of politics is a deeper discipline than that. It is a discipline that considers the philosophers who engaged in politics, the philosophers who write about politics, and political actors who based their laws, the establishment of their political system, on philosophical principles. In fact, in the epoch of the birth of philosophy, and in the epoch of the birth of politics, these things were not at all separated from one another. Thus, the subject matter of philosophy and politics is that originary sphere that united philosophy and politics in a certain shared orientation. In other words, I want to say that there does not exist a separate phenomenon of politics and a separate phenomenon of philosophy, which we unite artificially. Nor do we study politics with the help of philosophy. We are speaking not only about the political philosophy of one or another school, period, culture, or civilization. When we speak of the philosophy of politics, we are talking to a significant degree about the essence of politics, of that which makes politics politics – on one hand. On the other hand, we are talking about the political essence of philosophy, which makes philosophy philosophy.
But there is a difference. Philosophy dominates here, because politics without philosophy is not possible at all. Politics is a form of applied philosophy, the application of philosophy to a certain sphere of human life. But philosophy without politics is possible, theoretically. That is, there is a philosophy that does not occupy itself with politics, but there is no politics that is not based on philosophy. So, there is an inequality here; philosophy dominates. Nevertheless, philosophy studies politics; not only the philosophical foundations of, but also the political aspects of philosophy itself; because politics is not a partial and accidental application of philosophy, but the most general, most fundamental, yet applied element of philosophy. As soon as philosophy appears, it necessarily, first of all, when it exists, turns to politics; and all politics emerges from philosophy. Between them there exists an unequal, but very deep, organic connection. There, where this original unification of the philosophical and the political occurs…there the birth of all possible political systems and at the same time the crystallization of philosophical knowledge happens.
Although there is a philosophy that free from politics occupies itself with non-political questions, in fact, in one way or another, even such a free, non-political philosophy is connected, in one way or another, with politics, inasmuch as philosophy and politics have a common root. For this reason, if philosophy considers aesthetic questions, historical questions, cultural questions, and says nothing about politics, this nevertheless does not mean that it is a completely separate phenomenon. Any philosophy at all, even the most abstract, has a political dimension, in some cases explicitly. In the case of Solon, as in the case of the ancient Greek Pre-Socratics and Wise Men, and as in the case of Plato and Aristotle, this is an explicit dimension of philosophy. But there is also an implicit political dimension of philosophy, when philosophy says nothing about politics, but the very fact of the presence of a philosophical paradigm of one or another already carries in itself the possibility of a political dimension. In one case it is only explicit, open, and manifest; in the other, it is implicit, contained.
Hence, between philosophy and politics there is a very, very deep connection, a connection at the level of their origin. And the study of philosophy without politics already in itself impoverishes and weakens the concept of philosophy. On the other hand, the study of politics without philosophy is not at all valid. In that case, we’ve already gone the way of programming and established rule by Word; that is, open file, close file. We are good programmers….we know two functions, save and save as. We can be excellent users of Word, we can write very good texts on Word, but we are not programmers. People who do not have the philosophy of politics, who do not have philosophy, they are as much politicians as computer programmers are, as are people who [inaudible]. In fact, a person who does not know philosophy cannot engage in politics; he’s not a politician. He is a hired government worker who is simply in front of a wall. Someone has told him: go there, do that. What to do, where to go…he might be an excellent user, but in reality politicians who lack a philosophical dimension are merely on a construction-site, some foreign construction-site… In reality, without philosophy, there just is no politics, period. Politics is one of the dimensions contained within philosophy.
Politics without philosophy does not exist, but philosophy without politics does exist, because it is primary in relation to politics; but all philosophy has a political dimension – either, as I said, explicitly, or implicitly, in which case we are silent about it. But this silence of philosophy concerning its political dimension or expression is not a total silence; it is sooner reticence than silence. That is, philosophy which does not occupy itself with politics knows about politics and has it within itself, but openly does not speak about this. This is a peculiar silence. There is the silence of the wise man, and there is the silence of the dummy. This one stays silent in order not to say the wrong thing, because he senses that if he starts to talk, nothing good will come of it. The wise man stays silent for a completely different reason. The silence of philosophy concerning politics is the silence of the wise man. But, if we inquire of the wise man properly, he will tell us what he knows about politics and what he tells will be entirely sensible. But he’s silent.
So, any philosophical system carries in itself a political dimension, but not every philosophical system develops this model explicitly. That’s the most important thing in order to understand the sphere of the subject matter which we will be studying in the course of the philosophy of politics. In other words, we are studying the philosophical root, the base, the programming base, the matrix base, of all politics, which is entirely reducible to philosophy – there is nothing in politics, not a single element, which does not lead to, is not explained by, and does not emerge from philosophy. Simply, politics is a part of philosophy, on one hand. So we’ll be studying that. We’ll also be studying the political dimension of philosophy, which also [inaudible] because it is the servant of philosophy; on the other hand, the philosophy which carries politics within it is of course richer than politics, but nevertheless in any philosophical system we can discover, even there where nothing is said about it, a possible application to the political sphere, i.e. the possibility of deriving from philosophy political content. […] Politics is if you will the most important case of the application of philosophy. […] […].
Accordingly, the history of philosophy and the history of politics produce strictly one and the same pattern. This is extremely important. There exists a precise homology between them. If philosophy moves in one direction, politics cannot move in another direction. Politics moves together with philosophy. If something has changed in philosophy, something will change in politics. If something changed in politics, something changed in philosophy, which predetermined this change in politics. Politics has no autonomy from philosophy. Politics is often more visible, though sometimes less so. From the perspective of history…the changes of dynasties, of a certain leader, prince, imperator…to start a war…this is evident, this is a political decision, but it is never distinct from philosophy. It is what we see – the political decision – but we do not see the philosophical decision, which must be there. From the perspective of the philosophy of politics, political history is a section of the history of philosophy, depending on this philosophical history absolutely. No politician is free from philosophy, and no philosopher can fail to be viewed in the light of his implicit political dimension.
In other words, the historical picture, history, history as such, the rise and fall of princedoms, the construction and death of civilizations, conflicts between civilizations, political revolutions…decisions about tramways…all this has under it a philosophical dimension, not always evident and not always recognized, but the task of those who study the philosophy of politics is to elaborate the entirely of this total homology…this equal (homo) meaning (logos). The meaning of history is political-philosophical or philosophical-political. All history has these two sides. On one hand it is the history of princedoms, on the other it is the history of ideas. The history of princedoms and the history of ideas are not separate; it is one and the same history. Thus, if we fasten onto the philosophical dimension, for instance the transition from subjective idealism to objective idealism, this necessarily is connected with an identical political dimension…a transition from one political model to another…changes in the configurations of religions – and this is a philosophical problem in the first place, theology – change radically the content of the political processes occurring in the society where this philosophy is spreading. We can approach this homology between the philosophical and the political from all sides. We can say the political system changed, and depending on how it changed, in what direction, with what speed, and the content of the change, we can, even if we know nothing of the philosophy of that period, establish what was going on on the level of philosophical matters.
Or the opposite: we don’t know what happened politically in some society, but the history of arguments of one philosopher with another was preserved; from this argument, if it is written down correctly, we can reconstruct the whole political picture of what was happening in that moment, in the agora where everything was decided democratically, in the ding or the veche, or on the contrary if there was a monarchy, theocracy, for instance, or an empire. In other words, to study the philosophy of politics, we begin with a certain axiom, the axiom of the absolute homology between the political and the philosophical. Of course we can make a certain distinction, between politics and the political. I want to draw attention to one of the most eminent philosophers of politics, Carl Schmitt; we will refer to him throughout the entire course. In the 21st century, it is commonly agreed that Carl Schmitt was the most outstanding political philosopher[s] of the 20th century. At some times this was doubted; it was said that there would be other philosophers…but today if you say “Carl Schmitt”, everywhere you’ll be told that he is our most outstanding political philosopher; maybe the most outstanding, alongside Hobbes and alongside Plato. That is, Carl Schmitt is the political philosopher par excellence. I want to draw your attention to his works, and recommend that everyone necessarily and without delay familiarize themselves with his work on the political, das Politische. This is very important. Carl Schmitt distinguishes politics and the Political. He considers the Political – written with a capital P – in this case it is an adjective considered as a noun…das is the article indicating that we are talking about a noun. In German this is very clear: das Politische, as opposed to mere politische. In order to convey Schmitt’s meaning, we use the capital letter, the Political [henceforth, I will not capitalize; it is necessary in Russian, where there is no definite article.] This – the political – Schmitt distinguishes from politics. By politics, he understands the application of the political to a concrete social situation. The concretization of politics is the concretization of the political. But what, then, is the political? The political – das Politische – is precisely that point where the son (politics) is connected with the father (philosophy). That is, the political is precisely the sphere of philosophical politics, the sphere where philosophy connects directly with politics, what we called the homology of philosophy and politics. In other words, das Politische, according to Schmitt, is precisely the point of homology where we speak not of politics […] but not yet of philosophy as an ever broader level. It is the border, the horizon, the line between philosophy and politics. That is what das Politische means.
Another interesting aspect is that it is a certain sphere, a sphere that we define precisely as the philosophy of politics. The entire sphere of the philosophy of politics is contained in this concept of the political, das Politische.
Another very important concept Schmitt employs is what is called a “fore-concept” [Vorgriffe]. The fore-concept is not yet a political law, it is not yet a political institution, is a not a political party, nor is it a concrete political program. The fore-concept is a kind of element or singularity of the political in its pure guise – not purely philosophical, but where the philosophy of politics steps into its own right. Carl Schmitt calls this a fore-concept. The field of the political thus consists entirely of fore-concepts, political fore-concepts.
The political fore-concept is also a very interesting phenomenon in itself. It is precisely that moment of transition when philosophy becomes politics. But notice the tense: it becomes; it has not yet become, but only becomes. When philosophy becomes politics, when are dealing with a political concept. This is the political concept, for instance, of the separation of powers, the relation of Church and State, notions of borders, the subject, and political institutions. This is already a political concept, in the full sense of the word. When, then, is it a fore-concept? When the birth [I think] of this political concept is prepared on the basis of philosophical content. In this way, the sphere of the political is the sphere of the existence of fore-concepts. The political consists of fore-concepts; and studying fore-concepts, we study that homology about which we spoke earlier. The study of the homology of philosophy and politics, of what is common between these two asymmetrical spheres, is the study of fore-concepts and the task of the philosophy of politics. This is what we are talking about. We are talking about a kind of field that exists, where the multiplicity of the philosophical intersects with the multiplicity of politics. In here between them is precisely what is common…the political, which the philosophy of politics studies.
That was the introduction. Now we move to the question of how this occurs in practice. Plato is considered the founder of the first full-fledged philosophical system in history. He formulated most completely that philosophical agenda that not only predetermined the entire ancient history of philosophy, the entire Middle Ages, to a significant extent the philosophy of the Renaissance, which [inaudible] the philosophy of Modernity. But moreover, there is not today in the 21st century a philosopher more relevant and less understood than Plato. In other words, Plato is all of philosophy [the whole of philosophy; philosophy in toto]. The sharpest thinkers of the 19th, 18th, 17th, 16th, 15th…and so on until Plato all study Plato. In fact, strictly speaking there is one philosopher: Plato, and this is philosophy. To this day we have not [inaudible] his agenda. Concerning each of Plato’s words, of each of his phrases, there are heated arguments to this day, and no one can ascertain fully whether that is the way he was understood. Geniuses arise to take one position; geniuses arise and oppose it. Not simple people. Philosophical geniuses… All Christian dogma is based on Plato. In Christian theology there is not one thesis which does not have a Platonic dimension. In Islamic theology, everything is based exclusively on Platonism. And even where Platonism did not reach, in India, nevertheless the simplest way to study Hindu philosophy, Vedas, religion, is with Platonism, because the analogy is at once obvious. So, Plato is considered the prince of the philosophers, and his princedom in philosophy no one has yet been able to attack. Thousands of times it was announced that Plato’s empire has fallen. These proved each time to be some kind of marginal hallucinations. We live in the philosophy of Plato, Plato is the prince of philosophy, and either we contest this, in which case we […] the rise of the slaves who try to break free from the might of Plato’s princedom, or else we simply accept it as loyal citizens and follow our Emperor, Plato. Next, the idea that philosophy has brought something supplementary to Plato is an entirely unfounded, unscientific academic hypothesis. It is a kind of rumor which is not confirmed by the scientific community. Even those who are thought of as the embodiment of the philosophy of Modernity studied Plato [he talks about Bergson, who gave us, through the “primitive and very limited” Karl Popper, the open society, and about Whitehead, to show that both, though modern, were inspired by Plato]. Plato is everything. Hence, in fact if someone reads Plato, he comes up against not just one philosopher, not one author, not one school; he comes up against philosophy as such. Because all philosophy is nothing other than the movement between a few of Plato’s theses. Plato founded all philosophy at once: at once, and all together. Thus, the study of philosophy is the study of the philosophy of Plato. Everything else, essentially – as Whitehead, an analytical philosopher, a logician, a mathematician, himself said – is a footnote to the philosophy of Plato. SO we must attend to the fact that philosophy is only Plato. And if we do not understand Plato, we do not understand the programming language of philosophy. […] The study of philosophy begins with the study of the works of Plato; the study of philosophy is thunder-struck [porazhaetsya, I think I heard] through the study of works of Plato; the study of philosophy ends with the study of the works of Plato; there’s enough here for a lifetime. Accordingly, one can – I’ve been too general. This is a program for geniuses. For a simple, ordinary philosopher, it is possible to take one of Plato’s dialogues. I take the Cratylus [for instance], and live my life with the Cratylus. By the end of my life, the clarity of the Cratylus will be total. For students, the matter narrows. Let us take a separate saying of Plato and try in the course of some extent of time to live it through. And even that will be enormous, because Plato is philosophy. Accordingly, if we talk of philosophy, we talk of Plato. [..] If we want to familiarize ourselves with that matrix on the basis of which das Politische and the sphere of that homology we spoke of is formed, or with those fore-concepts with which we deal, if we want to understand where politics comes from, what its structures are, and how it is crystallized and manifested through the political, we must study Plato. […] So the first things we must get to know are Plato’s writings.


Translation of M.Millerman