“Wozu Philosophen in dürftiger Zeit?”: A Philosophical Clearing with Alexander Dugin


On 19 December 2020, the Russian philosopher Alexander Dugin hosted the online conference “Wozu Philosophen in dürftiger Zeit?”, facilitated and recorded by Paideuma TV.

Paraphrasing Martin Heidegger’s fundamental question in his Introduction to Metaphysics, “Why is there Something instead of Nothing?”, Dugin formulated the guiding question of the conference as “Why is there Nothing instead of Something?” Accordingly, the conference was dedicated to discussing the crisis of Philosophy and the crisis of the notion of “Human” in the Post-Modern West, particularly taking a cue from Dugin’s proposal of the concept of the “Radical Subject” (alternatively, as Dugin has suggested, better translated as “Radical Self”).[1]

Preceded by Dugin’s lecture “The Radical Subject and his Double”, the conference gathered approximately 40 participants from more than 20 countries and diverse milieux, of which 12 delivered live presentations and several others contributed pre-recorded lectures. The full conference video is available on Paideuma TV, as are the individual presentations

Below is a transcript of my brief contribution, “Thinking with Traditionalism and Heidegger: Towards Another Beginning of Philosophy”

Two of the most radically enlightening perspectives on Philosophy that surfaced in the 20th century came from two streams of thought which were the most critical of what we call Philosophy is. One was the Traditionalist school of thought, among which I would especially highlight René Guénon, Julius Evola, Mircea Eliade, and our own Alexander Dugin. The other was the fundamental-ontology of Martin Heidegger.

At first glance, it might seem improper or even impossible to pair these two directions of thought together. Although more historical evidence of the familiarity between these thinkers is emerging, it remains a fact that hardly any adherents of one or the other would dare cross the aisle, much less understand each other’s language.

The great exception, of course, being Alexander Dugin, who, while stressing that each must first be studied and mastered separately before any attempt at cautious approximation, has pointed to the deep resonance of the reconceptualization of Philosophy which follows from these two critiques of the Western historical-philosophical experience.[2]

The terminological, conceptual, and apperceptive gaps separating the Traditionalists and Heidegger might seem to be insurmountable. Among the most obvious, for example, is that Heidegger called the whole legacy of Philosophy since ancient Greece, which he saw as fatefully mistaken and abandoning of Being, “Metaphysics”, whereas for the Traditionalists “Metaphysics” refers precisely to the supreme language of Being from which the birth of Philosophy in Hellas represented a kind of degradation. For Guénon, it was a true, complete Metaphysics that Western Philosophy lacked and was therefore void. Secondly, we could disclaim how Heidegger held that only the West, or only Europe, had developed and was responsible for such a consistent conceptual tradition, whereas the Traditionalists saw much to be abhorred in this “pseudo-tradition” and instead held that true thought and wisdom could to be sought in non-Western or “pre-Western” contexts.

Here, however, following the precedent of Prof. Dugin’s works, I would like to draw attention to some of the key signposts along the common path of the challenge posed by Traditionalist and Heideggerian thought. Given the restraint on time, I’ll briefly propose these in the form of three theses with some elaboration.

I. Firstly, both the Traditionalist school and Martin Heidegger diagnosed the present historical era as one of culminating decline.

For the Traditional perspective, the Modern paradigm is the final period of the present cosmic spiritual cycle, known in different traditions as the Iron Age, the Kali-Yuga, the End Times. We are in the final stage of the degradation, oblivion, and loss of sacred Tradition to the point that consciousness of the very notion of Tradition, of the Traditional worldview and the Traditional world, becomes a painstaking effort against the overwhelming current of Modernity and Post-Modernity.

For Heidegger as well, Modernity is steep down the Untergang, the “downgoing”, the “flight of the gods”, and Seinsverlassenheit, the abandonment by and of Being, which both Heidegger and the Traditionalists saw as surfacing in the thought of Greek antiquity.

In this common view, the history of philosophy is not a progressive ascent or some kind of round table of cumulation, but a sequence whose only progress is that of misconstruing, distorting, forgetting, attempts at re-compensating, idiosyncratizing, falling away from the original philosophical Logos. There is no progress from Heraclitus and Plato to object-oriented ontology and transhumanism – on the contrary.

It is this consciousness, this diagnosis, this approach to the contemporal moment that reveals the whole picture of the whole path. Only once we realize this situation does the “history unfolding towards” (as Heidegger put it) become clear, first like a blinding light and then a flickering, distancing dim glow in the very heart of darkness. Only when we step back to behold the whole sequence of Philosophy in its course do we realize that something went radically wrong, and that only radical, paradigmatic re-questioning has anything to offer. From the Traditionalist and Heideggerian points of view, there is nothing left to lose.

II. Secondly, both the Traditionalists and Heidegger intimated the necessity and meaning of Another Beginning, a New Beginning, of a newfound return to authentic Being through the crisis of Western Modernity and the dead-end of Philosophy as we’ve known it.

For Heidegger, this means not only re-posing the question of Being, but re-asking how it is that Being even shows itself instead of Nothing, how it is that we reach die Lichtung (“the clearing”). This New Beginning is the pivotal point of the Seynsgeschichte in which find ourselves now.

For Evola, this is the question of re-attaining the very sense of “standing amidst transcendence” that is the archetypal orientation of the world of Tradition. For Eliade, this is re-learning the world of Homo religiosus, re-deciphering the “History of the Sacred” and what this “History” means.

Guénon famously wrote that “the end of a world never is and never can be anything but the end of an illusion.”[3] The end of an illusion means that one can no longer operate by the same criteria, but must quickly come to consciousness of what position one is in and what is to be done.

The New Beginning, as Prof. Dugin has emphasized, requires a complete renovation of all the structures and disciplines of thought which have developed since the first one, even, as Heidegger pursued, what it means to Think.

III. This brings us to the third thesis, which is that, following both Heidegger and the Traditionalists, for the New Beginning we have much to learn from returning to the source, from before the End of the First Beginning to which Philosophy owes its course.

In my opinion, perhaps the greatest guideline of the Traditionalist school is that it affirmed that the History claimed by Western Modernity and the line of thought claimed by canonical Philosophy are  anomalous, incommensurable with and even impoverished compared to the immense panoramas of traditional thought which man has lived since unfathomable prehistory: in myths, mysteries, symbols, and hierophanies of diverse forms.

If Philosophy began with Logos, or rather one particular arrangement of the Logos, then we are faced with rediscovering and reintegrating Mythos, as well as the different Logoi it can reveal. Moreover, the Traditional perspective, as well as any reading of Plato, reminds us that even the first Logos was not free from Mythos, that the place of Philosophy is in a much more saturated context of the Sacred. 

It is worth noting what Heidegger said in a 1969 interview: “[Thinking] requires a new care for language, not an invention of new terms as I once thought, but a retreat into the primordial content of our own continuously dying grasp of language.”[4] We can grasp this attempt in Heidegger’s re-reading and re-translating of Heraclitus, one of many such attempts which is demanded by the New Beginning.

Many words and concepts have been used up and misconstrued over the history of Philosophy. Returning to the ancient words whose understanding we’ve lost, and in which Being dwelled incomparably longer and freer than in our recent Logological experiment, is an imperative for Another Beginning.

In conclusion, although there can be no conclusion to this, I’d like to emphasize that thinking through the Heideggerian and Traditionalist perspectives on philosophy together is not simply an exercise in comparison or creative synthesis. It is an urgent, delicate invitation to play an active role in the eschatological transfiguration of Philosophy, to rediscover what Philosophy could have been, and to differentiate what it must finally be within and beyond our current End.

***

References: 

[1] See: Aleksandr Dugin, Postfilosofiia: Tri paradigmy v istorii mysli [Post-Philosophy: Three Paradigms in the History of Thought] (Moscow: Eurasian Movement/Faculty of Sociology of Moscow State University, 2009); Radikal’nyi sub’ekt i ego dubl’ [The Radical Subject and its Double] (Moscow: Eurasian Movement, 2009). 

[2] See: Alexander Dugin, Martin Heidegger: The Philosophy of Another Beginning (Arlington: Radix/Washington Summit Publishers, 2014).

[3] René Guénon, The Reign of Quantity and the Signs of the Times (Hillsdale: Sophia Perennis, 2004), p. 279.

[4] “Heidegger on Being, Technology, & the Task of Thinking (1969)

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