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Dmitry Moiseev examines the clash between modern science’s materialistic approach and the spiritual aspects of human existence, drawing on Swiss thinker Frithjof Schuon’s insights.

Despite the fact that German philosophy of life, as early as the turn of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, convincingly refuted the idea that the methods of natural sciences could be in any way suitable for interpreting the phenomena of the ‘world of man’, human spiritual reality, the modern world in its institutional and ideological manifestations persistently imposes a strictly materialistic view of human nature, paying little to no significant attention to the spiritual understanding of life. The claims of natural sciences to provide a comprehensive explanation of human nature, which everyone now encounters during their education in school, in practice lead to the total alienation of man from the very possibility of spiritual life, offering nothing in return.

This thought was wonderfully expressed by the Swiss traditionalist Frithjof Schuon (1907-1998) in his work Light on the Ancient Worlds (1965): ‘Modern science, which is rationalistic with respect to its subject and materialistic with respect to its object, can describe our position physically and approximately, but it is incapable of telling us anything about our supra-spatial position in the integrated real Universe… Profane science, trying to penetrate the mystery of things that serve as containers — into space, time, matter, energy — forgets about the mystery of things that are the content: it tries to explain the basic properties of our bodies and the intimate actions of the soul, but it does not know what intellect and being are, and therefore, relying on its “principles”, it is unable to understand what a person is.’

It is hard to argue with these theses of Schuon — indeed, everything truly significant in a person lies far beyond the grasp of natural-scientific understanding. In more noble times, when education was not mass-produced, standardised, and essentially materialistic, a person was given the opportunity to come into contact with the world of the spirit and to find meanings that supported him throughout his entire life. In the current situation, the only path that seems possible to overcome the absurd conceptions of man, imposed by materialistic science, is the path ‘against the modern world’.

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Translated by Constantin von Hoffmeister

Dmitry Moiseev

Dmitry Moiseev was born in Moscow, Russia, in 1987. He received his PhD in history of philosophy from the National Research University – Higher School of Economics (HSE) in Moscow. He also holds an MSc in philosophical anthropology from HSE, a BSc in economics and management from the London School of Economics and a BSc in economics from HSE. He is a senior lecturer at HSE, a member of the Russian Philosophical Society and the Russian Society for History and Philosophy of Science.

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