Horror Zivilisationis, or the Horror of Subjectivity


Oleg A. Donskikh,                            

Dr habil (Philosophy), PhD (Philosophy), Professor, Head of Department of Philosophy and Humanities, Novosibirsk State University of Economics and Management, Russia

Address: Kamenskaya st 56, Novosibirsk 630099, Russia

E-mail: olegdonskikh@yandex.ru

Article ID: 020110205

Published online: 1 October 2019

HANDLE: https://hdl.handle.net/20.500.12656/thebeacon.2.020110205

DOI: https://doi.org/10.55269/thebeacon.2.020110205


Quoting (Chicago style): Donskikh, Oleg A. 2019. “Horror Zivilisationis, oder Horror der Subjektivität.” Beacon J Stud Ideol Ment Dimens 2, 020110205. https://doi.org/10.55269/thebeacon.2.020110205

Language: German

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In the paper, the problem of the relationship between culture and civilisation, is studied. Civilisation is understood as the external expression of culture, while culture represents the content of civilisation. The relationships between culture and civilisation are always tense. The author also considers civilisation as the death of culture. The fear of the individual, the subjectivity ultimately results from the fact that humanity can no longer survive being soulless, only in the form of rationally determined civilisation. It is shown that modern civilisations suffer from the discrepancy between the increasing speed of the movement of communities towards a unified globalised humanity – a movement that is partly carried out with the help of technical progress that puts society and people into one orbit and transforms a human being into an objective, a controllable component – and the level of understanding the nature of this movement.

Key words: Horror Zivilisationis, civilisation, culture, subjectivity, human progress, history of natural sciences, history of social sciences, noosphere, technical development, rationality

Extended summary in English


“Horror zivilisationis” is an expression, which is based on the ancient Greek phrase “fear of emptiness” (horror vacui). Literally it has two meanings. Firstly, it is directly stemming from Antiquity, and then substantially renewed in the New European Time by Descartes and Pascal, and associated with the well known principle “nature is afraid of emptiness.” Secondly, it is derived from the primary desire of the artist to fill all voids in the painting or engraving.


In the paper, the author proves his thesis that the edifice of modern civilisation is standing on the blatant inconsistency between the growing speed of movement to a single globalised humankind (on the path of technological progress, which is grasping society and man himself into its orbit), and the decreasing level of the understanding of the nature of this movement. Konrad Lorenz correctly considered that people are not ready to manage the forces which they have woken.


Humankind, starting with the Neolithic revolution, is not only aggressively affecting nature, and transforming the surface of the Earth through technology, but is no less aggressively converting itself, often not becoming aware of it. With this approach the axiom is implicitly accepted about the existence of a single rationality. On the basis of this rationality all existing sciences are united, and it is possible to reduce to zero the actions of the phenomena which are beyond rational description. As soon as utopia received support from Marxism, the labour movement implemented itself in socialist revolutions, the leaders of which were convinced that they were acting in accordance with the scientific theory. With the fast development of genetics, genetic engineering instantly emerged, aimed at the improvement of human nature. Also with a breakthrough in biology, man is ready to actively convert himself, not even trying to understand firstly what for the significant parts of the genome exist. Similarly, the concepts of the architects are arising who offer to demolish the traditional old parts of the cities in order to build modern boxes.


Subjectivity overwhelms our life, including science, and the process of globalisation which seems to be natural, logical and objective (from the point of view of the concept of progress, and, respectively, of the single plan of development of the mankind) goes into the shining uncertainty. Thus, the technical civilisation formed by man simply cannot be understood in its completeness, and, therefore, we are not able to foresee the direction of its development. If Condorcet was convinced in the infinite victorious progress, now this belief appears to be not so obvious. There is a good reason to believe that the man is involved in the energy metabolism of such mighty forces that could sweep him from the palm of the Earth. Different sci-fi fiction movies demonstrate the collective unconscious, for which the idea of progress and a dreadful future intrinsically linked to each other.


Modern civilisation stands in front of us in its incomprehensible subjective inevitability, and peering at its pace we are experiencing the same horror, which Pascal experienced, being aware of his abandonment in space on the crossroads of the three infinities.


© 2019 Oleg A. Donskikh.
Licensee The Beacon: Journal for Studying Ideologies and Mental Dimensions.

This is an Open Access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/) that permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.

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