Dedicated to my children
Ulyana and Guerman
My motivation to write this small work came from three reasons. First reason: the monograph titled Society: Force and Progress (on which I am currently working) must necessarily contain a chapter on the problems of family and marriage. The second reason is the polemics started recently in the Western press on the topic of who is more intelligent – woman or man; this topic is likewise directly relevant to my monograph. Finally, the third and most important reason is the statistical data I stumbled upon concerning the relative numbers of marriages and divorces in Russia; namely, there were 800 divorces for every 1000 marriages in 2002. This figure shook me so greatly that I decided to put aside for a while the other chapters and concentrate urgently on researching the problems of family and marriage in Russia vis-a-vis similar problems in the West. As a result, the chapter on family grew into the small book which I am now offering to the reader.
The book The Origin of the Family, Private Property, and the State by Frederick Engels was published over 120 years ago. In it the author substantiated the regularity of simultaneous and mutually-conditioned emergence of monogamous family, private property and state. This mutual dependency obtains to this day. It is just that the vector of development has been turned around: the process of destruction of marriage is underway and so accordingly the family and the state are decaying. (Private property is affected by this process to a lesser degree, because many of its forms have acquired a transnational character.) The process is manifested very obviously in the Western world, to which Russia has aligned itself. The latter, having failed to develop the engine revolutions of prosperity, is already exhibiting wonders of decay and hurtling into a precipice. Nonetheless, the problems of family and marriage, even though they cause concern to the ruling circles of the West and of Russia, are relegated if not to the last, then at least the next-to-last place. At least they are not perceived as a crisis – or, in the case of Russia, catastrophe. International terrorism is considered a more urgent problem today; billions of dollars are expended to combat it. No one fully realizes that the detrimental effect from the collapse of the family exceeds by several orders of magnitude the damage from all terrorists put together. The consequence of the destruction of the family isn't just population decrease in this or that state - the existence of the state itself is cast in doubt, will all the due consequences. This process is rather drawn-out from the historical perspective, therefore less noticeable. There is only one way to halt it: change the direction of development; move on to the next stage of history, namely socialism. The West, by the way, is indeed gradually shifting precisely to the path of socialism without realizing it, or rather without admitting it. This is manifested most obviously in the sphere of social-family relations, within which framework the policies of many Western states recreate the policies that used to be practiced in the USSR.
In this book the problem of family and marriage isn't just analyzed on the basis of sociological science. Contrary to my preliminary intentions, the topic led me to reflect philosophically on such phenomena as "beauty," "intelligence" and "love," that are clear to all but incomprehensible to scientists. Not at all simple, from the perspective of philosophy, are also such phenomena – known to any reasonable person – as "family," "husband," "wife," "father," and "mother." However, without philosophical interpretation of the above-listed "words" it would be impossible to interpret sociological data. For any phenomenon discussed, it is important to have criteria, clear definitions of terms, and their translation to the level of concepts and categories. Otherwise the inevitable outcome would be the kitchen assortmentof arguments found in abundance in all contemporary books dedicated to marriage and family.
I did find a more serious approach used in the treatment of problems of love, which are discussed on a complex philosophical level. Actually, I had no intention of touching on this topic in the present work. However, one of my friends, who had read the original draft of the manuscript, knows of my penchant for formulating concepts, and he asked me to define in two – three words what love is. I obliged him: love is life. This definition did not satisfy him. Strangely enough, many people favor the mystical version of "defining" love: great is the mystery. Since this latter formulation is not operable, i. e. is not scientific, I was compelled to bury myself in literature on the topic, which, to my misfortune, turned out to be very vast. Naturally, I had to limit my circle of reading to a few scores of works, especially since most of them repeat each other. Amazingly, even after studying quite a few books I preserved the essence of my formulation of love as life, since it turned out to be the sole correct one, which will be proved in the corresponding part of the book.
This work in form and in style is not a scientific investigation in the strict sense of the word "science." Apart from the section on "love," the main text is written as a publicistic essay, which implies, apart from stylistic liberties, a subjective view of the topics. My wife, involved as always in the editing, attempted to adapt many philosophical sections for the normal reader, as well as substitute acceptable words for the "vulgarisms." This time she was thwarted by my determined resistance. I resisted because I have no desire to please the philistine reader, on one hand, and the purist reader on the other hand – the kind who is offended, for example, by the word "perversion," preferring the word "deviation." Still, for the sake of "scientific character," I retained the minimum scientific apparatus (the bibliographical data), to avoid accusations of libel, such as had been leveled against me on several occasions.
The reader who is familiar with my previous works knows that my principal and sole assistant in my research is my wife, Valentina Battler; on this occasion, too, she participated most actively in discussing all sections of the essay. Although, as I mentioned already, I did not agree with all of her remarks, "in essence" I was compelled to reinterpret many things, add some, and remove some. In any case, this is precisely that version of the wife's participation in the husband's affairs which I describe in the section on "the ideal wife." I am thankful to my fate.
Oxford, the United Kingdom,
One cannot think without having thought,
One cannot understand without having concepts.
Science begins at the stage where "common sense" is left to the masses, while the researcher switches to the language of concepts and categories, i. e. to the language of science. Otherwise we would never be able to penetrate phenomena which we meet all the time, including such as family. Almost anyone would say, if asked, that family is a union between a man and a woman with a household in common – the commonplace definition from the dictionary of "common sense." But if this family has no children, can it be called a family? Some would say yes, others – no. For example, the German philosopher Friedrich Kierchner wrote in his book that was popular in Russia once: "The principal pillar of all culture and morals... is the family, i. e. offspring issuing from marriage." In this connection another question may emerge: what about a divorced single mother with a child – can they be considered a family? Once again, some would say yes, it is a family, while others would say no. "Common sense" no longer works.
Here's a more complex question: why is the family needed? Is it for continuation of the species? However, in the era of savagery there was no family, yet the species continued. I fear that this question, too, cannot be answered by "common sense."
An even greater variety of quotes-answers would be produced by the question: what is the ideal family? What is the ideal, anyhow? Carriers of "common sense" wore down these words to dilapidated banality; yet, having failed to find a definitive answer – which they have no need of anyway – they would say that the ideal is a subjective thing. It suffices to look in any glossary on this topic to see that for some the ideal is embodied in looks, for others – in character or intelligence, for still others – in sexual potency, and so on. This all is reminiscent of the anecdote about the sultan who was given a choice of several dozen women. To the surprise of many, his choice was not the most beautiful one, or the most intelligent one, or the most good-natured one, but rather the one with the biggest bosom.
Consider now the above-listed qualities of the sultan's brides: the evaluations of each of these, too, can vary very widely. What does it mean: beautiful – ugly, clever – dumb, etc.? Is it all subjective, too? Perhaps the term ideal has no objective criteria at all? However, if that is so, why then are the Mona Lisa or the Sistine Madonna recognized by all peoples (all literate ones, that is) as ideal works of art? Why is the music of Bach, Mozart, Beethoven, and Shostakovich considered to be classic (which is an expression of the ideal)? The same can be said of certain poets, such as Shakespeare, Goethe or Pushkin. It follows that there is something universal in the ideal, something independent of concrete individuals' subjective perceptions.
Alreadyinthepre-Hegelianphilosophytheterm"ideal"startedacquiring a conceptual content, reflected in certain words that are adequate to the sphere of their application. In aesthetics, the ideal was embodied in the beautiful, in beauty; in ethics – in goodness, virtue; in politics – in fairness (justness). All these concepts undoubtedly always bore and still bear the imprint of history and geography, since in each epoch, in each different culture the beautiful, the virtuous and the just was tied to the particular (according to Hegel), i. e. it reflects the specifics of space and time.
However, is there the universal present in the ideal? Hegel wrote in his "Aesthetics": "For the Ideal requires an inherently substantive content which, it is true, by displaying itself in the form and shape of the outer as well, comes to particularity and therefore to restrictedness, though it so contains the restrictedness in itself that everything purely external in it is extinguished and annihilated." On the basis of his claim about the substantiveness, i. e. the being-ness, of the ideal, he analyses the forms of all arts, including poetry, in order to understand their substances. This all, however, belongs in the realm of aesthetics – on the conceptual, i. e. reflected, level. To Hegel, this was sufficient; but not to us. For we need to find out: does the ideal have the substance of being?
I maintain that it does, and its being-ness content is definedby the answer to the question: what is the meaning of life? A multitude of answers have been offered. Theologians will claim that the meaning of life is "in serving God"; revolutionaries – in struggle; philistines – in peace; bourgeois – in money. This kind of answers often confuses "the meaning of life" with "life's goal." In either case, we get a great variety of answers. Without getting involved in polemics, let me outline my position which I had justified on the philosophical level in my book Dialectics of Force: Ontobia. Briefly, the philosophy boils down to this:
All concepts are a reflection ofbeing which realizes itself through matter, motion, space/time and force. In all three realms: the inorganic, the organic and the social – being realizes itself in different ways, and these differences are captured in the corresponding laws, some of which are fundamental. The word "force" is not used in each and every law, but as it is an attribute of being, whether in hidden or evident form (in the latter case the wordforce is signified) force is present in all phenomena that take place in our Universe. In my aforementioned book I designated force as a philosophical category with the word ontobia, in the micro- and macro-worlds – as force, in the organic world as orgabia, in the Universe as cosmobia. In the world of social relations this force merged with knowledge (force = knowledge) – mankind's main weapon in the battle against the law of entropy growth for control of space and time in the Universe.
In that same book I prove that life starts with man. Everything that is outside of man, outside of society belongs to the inorganic and the organic worlds, including animals and other creatures. Therefore, the concept of love, for example, is inherent to man alone, i. e. it is a social idea. It does not exist outside the boundaries of society, and neither do all other social ideas (enmity, happiness, pleasure, etc.). Therefore, when certain philosophers or writers/poets write of love between animals, plants, etc., those writings are either metaphors or fairy tales that are very good for children. However, when they write such things in full earnestness, that is evidence of their scientific illiteracy.
So, let us get back to life. What is its meaning? I repeat after Goethe that the meaning of life is life itself. Therefore, the longer the life, the more meaning it has. The entire history of mankind's formation and development is the history of extending the life of man himself as a species and preserving mankind as a genus.
From this statement follows my definition of the concept of progress, which goes as follows: progress is the "increment" of life, i. e. the difference between the years allotted to man by nature (the laws of the inorganic and the organic worlds) and the years he really (actually) does live thanks to his knowledge. I call this difference the life delta, or progress. For obviousness' sake, it can be expressed thus: LDelta = LA – LN where L is lifespan; A is the actual, or real, average lifespan; N is the natural, or biological, lifespan allotted by nature. Hence the meaning of life is the effort to attain progress, i. e. to increase the life delta. Let me remind here just in case that the humanoid's initial average lifespan for over 99 % of the time of his existence on the planet was 18 years. Today it has been pushed in advanced countries to nearly 80 years, and this leap has been achieved in the last two centuries. This means that man has "bypassed" nature thanks to his knowledge, having increased his life delta by a factor of four.
What is the main enemy of life? The answer is obvious: death. It will be the death not just of man, but of the entire Universe, which will come inevitably in accordance with the second law of thermodynamics. For those who are not very familiar with this law (also known as the law of entropy growth), I present one of the definitions: entropy is the degradation of matter and energy in the Universe all the way to the ultimate state of inert uniformity. In other words, this law postulates the death of the Universe. This law is fundamental; it applies to man, too. However, unlike the entire non-human world, man alone is capable of... no, not canceling, but rather "slowing down" the rate of effect of the second law of thermodynamics. I want to stress that although man does indeed on the strength of this law tumble to a state of perfect balance and death, he manages at the same time to extend his existence as a species. On the level of mankind as a whole, he already aspires to immortality. That is his ultimate goal as a representative and carrier of the noosphere. Even though this goal is unattainable in principle, according to that same law of entropy, the struggle for its achievement – precisely struggle, rather than passive belief in progress – is the essence of human existence. The progress of human development is essentially nothing other than the extension of the life of humankind and of man as its core. Man appeared in the universe by chance, but mankind must survive by regularity.
It follows from this reasoning that the substance of the ideal is rooted in the very life delta which is realized through man, by man himself. This means that the ideal does have objective criteria for all times and peoples, i. e. it is possessed of the universal. As for its particular, it manifests it in many phenomena, including family.
Let us now return to family. Why family, of all things? I believe that mankind's ultimate fate is dependent on the family, or rather the ideal family. Of course, the progress of mankind as a rising trend is realized through many factors. Nonetheless, the family and subsequently the state always played, and still play, a special role. Prior to the forming of the family, the life delta - that very difference between the lifespan of the species and the factual lifespan – practically did not grow: average life expectancy stayed at the mark between 18 and 20 years for several million years. The formation of family – the monogamous family above all – served to accelerate the rate of progress. However, even in monogamy there are different types of families. So where are the criteria of the family that is "ideal", that is constructive? What is its specificity? The answer will be given below, but first it is necessary to specify the following:
In everyday life, the word "ideal" can have two meanings. One of them is "idea." Then the expression "ideal family" can mean "family after an idea," i. e. one that performs certain functions. In this meaning the ideal is equivalent to the normal, or natural, family. The definition of family given by the Russian philosopher V. Rozanov can be perceived in precisely this meaning. He wrote: "The family is an organism that emerges in the closest fashion around an individual, merged with him physiologically, yet remaining after his death as a number of individuals who form anew each around himself a similar organization."
I direct your attention to the expression "similar organization." This is the normal family that realizes itself, to use a term from political economy, in simple reproduction from the perspective of its qualitation. (We're not talking in this case about the number of children.) Such a family will find a place on those pages of statistics where the phenomenon is not working for the life delta. In this sense it is no different from the "family" of certain animal species that reproduce "a similar organization."
The ideal family lengthens the life delta, which reflects the other meaning of the word ideal: certain perfection, the supreme ultimate goal of aspirations, or of activity. This kind of family is tied to the idea of progress. The "fantastically" daring way to making the life of man and, accordingly, mankind endless – at least within the framework of the existence of the Universe itself – is a challenge to crucifixion by slavery. However, the ultimate goal is never achieved in principle, since the finite owes its existence to the infinite. In this sense it resembles the word truth: the ultimate, or absolute, truth is the infinite, or relative, truth. These words exist as concepts in mutual definitions. For all that, both the absolute and the relative possess the property of objectivity, since their conceptual perception is reflected from their ontological, or being-ness, existence. Their objectivity is tested in practice through their adequacy to the laws of nature and society.
What this reasoning has to do with the ideal family is that it objectively serves progress as it increases the life delta. This is only possible when it produces offspring that is qualitatively superior to the parents (members of the family that gave birth to them). The quality itself of the subsequent offspring is determined by the volume and depth of knowledge that they are capable of using for increasing the duration of mankind's existence.
It is pointless to mention here examples that appear to contradict the above reasoning, such as: a certain family produces a genius who discovers some laws but dies at the age of 25. That is, despite discovering laws, the genius in this instance did not even reach the statistical average life expectancy. Such examples are all from the domain of common sense, but we are talking here of the general trend that forces its way through a mass of particularities and details.
Thus, the ideal family is a social organism within society that ensures mankind's progress toward immortality.
And now follow the questions: why? when? in which case can family possess such qualities? I claim that one of these universal properties is love. At this point the well-read reader will inquire maliciously: "Love? What is that? The question has no answer to this day."
I want to make a correction: there was no answer until now. Read Chapter 1 and all the rest in the bargain. At the very least it won't hurt you.