Translated from the Polish


ON WHAT IS CIVILISATION BASED? — THE QUINCUNX OF EXISTENTIAL VALUES



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ON WHAT IS CIVILISATION BASED? — THE QUINCUNX OF EXISTENTIAL VALUES

Already his earlier historical investigations had led Koneczny to devote special attention to the comparative study of law; he recognised very early the great importance of the diversity of law for the differentiation of social forms. Seen from outside, the diversity of civilisations, has a root in the diversity of law; the inner aspect consists in the different attitudes of man towards values. Two notions of Koneczny are here of fundamental importance: the “trójprawo”, the “triple law” — and the existential categories or existential values.

The “’triple law” embraces three spheres: family law, property law and inheritance law. The structure of the family is of central importance. Monogamy, polygamy, semi-polygamy and other forms of the constitution of the family influence in the deepest way the whole consciousness of society. The form of the family and the whole spiritual attitude of man stand in the closest mutual relationship. Polygamy, as experience teaches, influences in a most unfavourable way the spirit and the character not only of the woman, but also of the man; even the dissolubility of matrimony exercises an influence of a similar sort; it is a fact of great importance that not one polygamous society has been able to overcome the clan system. The spheres of the “triple law” are closely mutually interrelated. To a given family law belong also a corresponding property law and inheritance law. Not everything can be combined here with everything, but strict correspondences are in force, e.g. a mutual connection of monogamous matrimony with private property, and of polygamy with clan despotism.

The “quincunx of existential values” or “categories of being” conducts us into the true, innermost essence of civilisation. These are: health, economic wellbeing, the true, the good and the beautiful. Two of these values belong to the material order, two to the spiritual; the value of beauty belongs at the same time to the two orders.

The attitude towards these values, the valuation of them and the determination of the relation between them can be very different. The understanding of these differences gives a key which opens the riddle of the diversity of civilisations. Humanity, as a whole, has not much in common; but it is true that the common ground increases when we narrow the circles, and limit ourselves to those societies which have risen above the more primitive grades of material cultural possession to what we popularly call higher culture.

A hierarchical order exists among the values; this is a hierarchy of values as well as a hierarchy of sociological importance. Fundamentally, the spiritual categories have precedence over the material. But none of the five spheres is superfluous. Only where all five categories are fully developed is the “wholeness of life” achieved; where this is not the case, the civilisation is incomplete, “defective”. Sociologically the most important is the value of the good, the sphere of morality. But it is in strictest connection with the sphere of truth. Here belong the wide, penetrating and subtle investigations of Koneczny into the relation between religion and morality. — Until today not even one case has been known of a wholly irreligious civilisation. There have existed only societies with particularly great numbers of irreligious individuals (e.g. Japan). No new civilisation has emerged from such societies until today, only cultural chaos. An irreligious or even more an antireligious life leads towards a narrowing of life, towards a mutilation of the categories of being: the civilisation becomes again defective. Historical induction teaches with compelling inevitability that without religion there can be no cultural progress.

Not only the sphere of the beautiful, but also the two spheres of material values are internally strictly connected with the religious and moral order; a neglect of these harms also the physical and moral life. Every insufficiency in one sphere brings necessarily a corresponding insufficiency in the others. — Also the material spheres have their indestructible place in the hierarchy of values. Neglect of the body and contempt for the things of this earth harm the spirit and morality. “A law in some way inevitable brings it about that man, being composed of body and soul, has only the choice either to strive towards perfection in both spheres, or to sink in both.” A popularisation of asceticism, if going too far, leads unavoidably to caricature. In the dirt even holiness ceases, although some parts of the Eastern Church may sometimes have thought otherwise. — The category of beauty has on its part a closest connection with all the categories of being. Koneczny grants great praise to the Renaissance because it liberated us definitely from the prejudice that moral accomplishment can only find proper expression in a body which is free from external beauty.

All spheres of life without exception should be developed equally and in proper proportion to each other. This is not always the case in fact; often whole categories are lacking; such “sub-developed” societies have a “defective civilisation”. The civilisation is “one-sided” when one category shoots up exuberantly and narrows the others by overgrowing them; primitive societies in particular sometimes form specimens of curious distortion; but also in historical civilisations examples of such a kind of “elephantiasis” could be found. “Fullness of life” is the real ideal. The nearer a society is to the ideal of all-roundness, the higher it stands; not one of the Asiatic civilisations fulfils this demand of completeness completely. In many of them the sphere of natural truth is missing.

A fundamental postulate for every civilisation is the following: between the categories of the triple law and between all the categories of the quincunx a harmony and congruity must reign. This postulate means that a given solution in the sphere of one of the five values provides immanently and necessarily also guiding lines for solutions in all the other spheres.

Civilisation is a “method” und not a chaos. A society whose attitude towards the five values, which are in the closest way interconnected, is not harmonious, is not flowing from one basic principle, is not forming a logical and compact system, but bears in itself the seeds of self-destruction. Only such societies which satisfy this fundamental requirement are capable of life and progress. Old Hellas did not satisfy this demand; this is the innermost reason why she could not survive; old Rome, with her iron compactness was the direct opposite; the Roman world empire was anything but a simple produce of chance; it was a logical consequence of the compactness of the legal and social Roman structure, or, in other words, of the Roman superiority in civilisation over all the other societies of the ancient world.

It follows from this high estimate of material categories that Koneczny does not adhere to a principle of division between the spiritual, and the exteriorly technical culture which is so beloved especially by the German philosophers of history. The one cannot be separated from the other. The same principle of life finds expression in the external, technico-economico-legal organisation of a society, as in the highest spiritual manifestations; the external aspect of a civilisation and its spiritual and moral content are mutually in the most intimate way interdependent. Koneczny’s rejection of this division into two spheres is linked with his conception of the struggle for existence. The previous century, with its predominantly materialistic notion of the struggle for existence, has greatly sinned in this matter. The struggle for existence has a triple character: moral, intellectual and material. Only rather deformed individuals conduct an exclusively material struggle for existence. It would have been possible already for the Darwinists to see — had they wished to see — that even on the most primitive level of culture wars are conducted not only for cattle and for hunting grounds, but also for “prestige”.


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