31.03.2021, 18:39


Ilham Mammedzadeh
PhD, Institute of Philosophy and Sociology of ANAS, Baku, Azerbaijan

The problem of sustainable development is often perceived in our country as everything related to the impact of globalization on regional changes in the way of life, economy and culture. But this is also their opposite effect on the world. In our opinion, this is evidenced, for example, by the pandemic that emerged in China, but has turned into one of the challenges for the entire modern civilization. Sustainable development does not yet protect us from such risks. Therefore, it becomes relevant to study the philosophical and ethical aspects of this problem. The pandemic not only exposed metaphysical, philosophical and ethical weaknesses in development, but also showed that it is not only a biological or political problem. It is necessary to respect ecology, medicine, to model the processes of interaction between the environment and humans, to politically control the thoughtless growth of consumption, etc. But without the philosophical and ethical context of our own existence, we, perhaps, will not understand the main thing that the pandemic tells us about, what and how to overcome the weaknesses of our response to the global challenges of regional development.

Key words: philosophy, ethics, sustainable development, pandemic, responsibility


The pandemic, in our opinion, arose because of the man’s attack on nature. This attack on the living causes a response on its part, viral infections and, probably, there will be more pandemics. But this is not the point, but the extent to which we are ready to respond to this challenge. A. Rubtsov, for example, correctly notes that “The SARS-CoV-2 attack has become a challenge not only for the economy, politics and health systems, but also for the intellectual environment as a whole” (1; p. 21) In our opinion, a lot depends on how we think about the problems of what we call sustainable development. Of course, the unrestrained attack on forests, nature, animals testifies that thrift, sustainability of development is not inherent in man, that he is not imbued with its philosophy and ethics. The pandemic and quarantine revealed that there are problems in interpersonal communication. In many places there was debate about whose life was the least valuable, etc. In principle, capitalism and socialism have tried differently to accept the axiom of lean management. This is written in Western and non-Western philosophical literature. In our modern Azerbaijani philosophy, certain attention is also paid to these issues. We may recall our book “Introduction to Ethics”, which analyzed the evolution of various systems of morality in history. (4). We also addressed this issue, analyzing local rationalism (G. Bashlyar), the possibilities of the influence of philosophy on culture. (5) However, both capitalism and socialism, nevertheless, failed to limit the rampant harm that humanity caused to nature. This means that something is wrong in ethical concepts, religious doctrines of modesty and thrift, somehow wrong, they affect a person, his morality, his philosophy, and then to the practice, politics and economics. We think that we need to understand the philosophy of sustainable development in a different way. Of course, this means the need to change social paradigms, but the first step must be taken in rethinking our attitude to nature.A person should treat nature responsibly, it is a value in itself, he himself is its integral part. Sustainability, stability of its position in the world, in principle, depends on the understanding of this thesis. In the recent past, villagers and urban people differed in behavior and values. The first, perhaps, was careful with nature and thrifty. But in the world, the number of the urban population is steadily increasing and, namely, the new virus hits it to a greater extent. Cities are crowded population, metro, crowded in the morning and evening. In principle, the smaller the rural population, the less sustainable and stable our life becomes. We think that every culture, every city needs responsibility, flexibility and creative mood of an individual. Moreover, the development of bio-information technologies does not change the demand for such a citizen, but can help him.

About the philosophy of sustainable development

Ethics and religion, which traditionally dealt with responsibility, did not cope with the problem of moral education. Given the dominance of megacities with their benefits and temptations, it is difficult to expect that urban ethics will cope with it. The quarantine and self-isolation of the pandemic period clearly showed that the state was able to force the citizen to follow the rules of conduct. But the fight against the virus is an extraordinary event, and sustainable development will become possible when people choose the appropriate strategy of responsible behavior. It is clear that the choice will be within the framework of cultural and civilizational models, that is, with the help of what they understand by the philosophy and ethics of decent (sustainable ) behavior and development.However, so far, even philosophers, in a sense of the word, are indifferent to the disclosure of the meaning of what is philosophy and ethics of sustainable development, how development is connected with philosophy and ethics. In our opinion, firstly, the philosophy of sustainable development should reveal the meaning, the essence of what is sustainable development. Its meaning is not connected only with what decisions are made by international organizations and individual states, with all the importance of their activities in this direction, since this is only one side of the issue. Its other side is the analysis of why people do not relate to each other, to nature morally, despite the threats to their existence. Secondly, the philosophy of sustainable development should be inextricably linked with ethics, the upbringing of a responsible individual, understanding how proper behavior is important for him. We think that philosophy and ethics of sustainable development should be concerned about why these issues do not bother national philosophy, ethics, metaphysics in general. These two moments are linked by inseparable threads and, moreover, only by understanding them, it is possible to unravel the meaning of the threats to the current global civilization. Understanding these issues, in our opinion, will also help clarify the difference between development and prosperity and the transition to a model of development as a survival.
For example, in Azerbaijan in the year of the pandemic, a collective monograph “Davamlı inkişafın sosial və fəlsəfi problemləri” (Social and philosophical problems of sustainable development) was published in Azerbaijan, from which it follows that the philosophy of sustainable development is in the welfare of the living, preserving the ability to develop in future generations. (2; p. 24). In the book about the philosophical and social problems of sustainable development, there is neither a definition of the philosophy of this concept, nor what is development, as we know the philosophical concept. In addition, sustainable development is determined through development. It is also noticeable that the majority of authors of this collective monograph see sustainable development only as a sphere of decision-making, ignoring the value choice of people, the variability of their ideas about what and how should be, what role in their moral culture nature occupies, how management and human morality are related.
Now about how the meaning of the word “sustainable” and the understanding of sustainable development differ. In theory, our task is to understand what is the meaning and essence of sustainable development. Sustainable is stable, gradual, ecological, rational, taking into account the interests of future generations, etc. Development is a process, change, a qualitative transition from one state to another in nature and society. These processes are interconnected and at the moment the quality and state of this relationship, transitions from one state to another, threatens the future of a person. Philosophy here, in our opinion, is for whom sustainability is needed, how firmly it has become a part of our culture, from what it saves us, why we sacrifice it and how often.
It is assumed that sustainable development is a change as a result of human activity, which removes the threat from the contradictory and now dangerous for people relationship between nature and society. But while sustainable development does not remove threats, climate, ecology, the danger of war with the use of nuclear weapons, demographic growth still, if not to a greater extent than before, threaten human civilization as a whole, but every region, at least in Europe and Asia. There is still a threat not only of a clash of cultures, but also of civilizations.
In this situation, we think that the connotation of the word sustainable should be reduced to responsible, or rather to responsible development. So, why was the concept of sustainable rather than responsible development adopted, why it is neglected. Although ethics is an integral part of philosophy, the priority has always been given to responsible development. Moreover, both in the religious and non-religious parts of it.
We believe that the survival of mankind requires a responsible management of the global and local economy. Without human responsibility, it is impossible to develop human capital, the point is not in morality in general, but in the special, responsible morality of the individuals before “other” people, cultures, societies, generations, before humanity. Such an integrity on the part of a separate society is the path to survival and a dignified future. Let’s pay attention to the fact that responsibility is inextricably linked with the concept of worthy, and together they reveal the meaning of the relationship that a person needs with another individual, and society with nature. But whether such relationships are possible is a complex and ambiguous question. It is also in answering the question of why the intellect stopped responding to the question of what a community of people should be in order to be able to remove the threats facing humanity, and without limiting as much as possible its individual and local freedom.

Philosophy in the distant and near past

In Socrates, Plato and Aristotle, philosophy, the method of philosophy, combined the search for truth and how to arrange a person’s life (remember the Socratic “maieutics”). Then this connection began to be perceived as a hindrance to truth, religion and religious morality. Many have written about this, including us, so we will not dwell on this here. (5; p. 92). The Kantian idea of duty and reason seems to have substantiated a certain consensus between science and morality, nature and society, world society and law. To understand his ideas, we think that his work “What is enlightenment” (1784) is especially valuable, in which he noted “... that enlightenment is a person’s exit from the state of his minority ...” (3; p. 25) However, Kant’s ideas are difficult to understand, and therefore, apparently, did not receive much distribution in the world. For example, they never had a serious impact on the post-Soviet countries, the French existentialism of J.P. Sartre and A. Camus, as well as the English and American analytical philosophy. So, in Azerbaijan, Hegel was always more relevant than Kant. We think that the education of duty and responsibility was associated for us with the requirements of the state. However, now, in the context of a pandemic, it has become clearly seen that the requirements of the state must be supplemented by the responsibility of the individual and the family. For example, wearing masks is both a responsibility to others and to oneself, and we remember how long we got used to it.
It is clear that because of the importance of success and survival in life, responsibility, duty - such important concepts for philosophy have been consigned to oblivion. Of course, some will cite a long list of ethical works as proof of the opposite, but we are talking about something else, about the reasons for the low importance of the ethical function in philosophy and culture of the twentieth century.
The intellectual reason for this was the fascination of philosophy with language, method, separation of method from morality, the dominance of samples of analytical philosophy. Moreover, these ideas had an impact on the best representatives of continental European, Soviet and Muslim philosophy, and led to the fact that philosophy has lost its popularity, the impact on the reader. Philosophers began to think about what language is, what is clarity and morality. All the famous philosophers of the twentieth century and the same J.P. Sartre, M. Heidegger, and even more so B. Russell were carried away by clarifying these points, but almost lost attention of those who wanted the most clarity in the understanding of morality and responsibility.
Of course, schools of philosophy lost their popularity in different ways and to varying degrees, but the influence of philosophy as a whole began to decline, moreover, at a time when populism began to dominate politics. Let us also pay attention to the fact that at the beginning F. Fukuyama, and then S. Huntington became popular, that is, first the end of history, and then the clash and the supposed end of cultures. However, the impact, in our opinion, has led to simplified ideas about the inevitability of democracy, and the end of local culture with its own understanding of morality.
The actualization of interdisciplinary research also played a role in supplanting philosophy. This remark is directly related to the topic of sustainable development, as it is, in essence, a pronounced interdisciplinary approach, content and direction. And that’s normal. An interdisciplinary approach is necessary, it is used in many sciences, it gives rise to new interdisciplinary sciences, forecasting is impossible without it. But it should not crowd out other sciences, and, above all, local philosophy and ethics, which have their own clearly defined function, to ensure that a person can find a consensus between freedom and responsibility, so that he can understand how to relate the general and the particular, culture space and time.

Philosophy as Metaphysics and Ethics

The question of the relationship between philosophy and science is now, as before, in the center of attention of philosophers. These questions are complex and interesting for many and have an impact on the philosophy of sustainable development. We believe that philosophy, metaphysics and ethics at their best help science understand the nature and responsibility of a scientist. But is it possible to educate such a scientist if we are not worried about raising a responsible, worthy person? In one of our works, we noted that philosophy begins where we try to enter the realm of that which is unknown to science, where our consciousness and nature border. What we know about the world, about nature, is always limited, just as our understanding of the sustainability of our development is limited. This limitation must be overcome by responsibility before interference with nature, we also note the role of education in the upbringing of such a proper and responsible behavior. (3)
We operate with such concepts of our consciousness as time, consciousness, development, causality, logic, and they help not only philosophy to understand nature, the physical world, but also science to explore nature. Metaphysics was often underestimated in the past, but at the moment it becomes clear to us that its role in philosophy is in understanding what is sustainable development and morality in culture.
The relevance of metaphysics determines and is conditioned by the same importance of the methodology trying to answer the question, what is our knowledge of morality and development? By the way, it was once asked by Plato, and we are still looking for an answer to it and, apparently, we will be looking. We are looking for an answer to the question of what is the philosophy of responsible, sustainable and worthy behavior. Of course, there were many answers, but they do not suit us, also because our development often leads to progress, which turns into regression. However, it is clear that our knowledge is connected with our public and private interests, personal ideas about what should be done, and the path to progress full of prejudices, violations, contradictions and overcoming, to put it mildly, only reveals this relationship. In philosophy, reflecting on these questions, they often use the ideas of possibility and probability, the separation of knowledge and intuition. However, much in knowledge depends on the morality of the individual, society, culture within social and inter-social relationships, what we sometimes call the dialogue of people and cultures, the culture of civilizational interactions.
In principle, we are talking about the fact that knowledge is closely related to consciousness, reason, education. These are complex concepts with many philosophical and ethical issues and implications. Someone in this context will be interested in the philosophy of R. Descartes, the problem of the interaction of the body and consciousness, someone with the geo-philosophy of J. Deleuze, but there is also a place for thinking about what is mentality, thinking, faith, so that fundamental science ( conventionally, for example, physics) cannot explain, but without which it is impossible to understand the activities of a physicist. Although we are talking about something without which you cannot understand sustainable development.
In this context, it becomes clear, in our opinion, why the linguistic philosophy fashionable in the past (the same L. Wittgenstein) cannot explain that mentality, faith, desire are not reducible to the philosophy of language, for all its significance. The line is noticed here between what the language means and what the designated is. This is probably why experience, consciousness, the limitations of what is designated in language, etc., return to philosophy.
Once ethics was a noticeable aspect, factor, function of philosophy, social life. However, now, when it is needed, among other things, and as a responsibility in the practice of sustainable development, as an integral quality of choosing a line of behavior, it is not visible. When scientists think about sustainable development, the least hope is moral attitudes. How can this be explained?
In our opinion, the point is that there are at least two ethics: normative and descriptive (descriptive). Normative ethics deals with the content of responsibility, duty, moral prescriptions in different cultures, comparison, and the answer to what we should do in a given situation of choice. Descriptive ethics is concerned with the form of morality, the reflection on whether they are correctly expressed. So, in the twentieth century, normative ethics became less and less, and more descriptive, and therefore it became of interest only for a narrow part of the philosophers themselves. Everyone is ready to argue on social media about morality, but there is almost no thought about what is the reason for their own irresponsibility.
Such a philosophy with ethics, in essence, refused to influence society, family, politics. Now, in connection with the pandemic, there is a demand for normativity in society, politics, culture and even the economy. (6) Sustainable development in the current environment requires a morally defined economy and politics. Any measurement of public sentiment in any country will reflect the demand for calculation, frugality in economics and politics. There is such a demand in our political and economic life, it can be noted that responsibility and normativity, respect for moral requirements and standards, so far, unfortunately, as a requirement for something else, is returning to our social practice, however, as well as in other countries.
There are many themes in ethics, as well as in metaphysics and methodology, which philosophy, theory and practice of sustainable development need. For example, biotechnology and artificial intelligence, human rights, nature, animals, etc. These are all standard objects of philosophical and further analysis, necessarily adding, as well as logic, sociology and law. It should be noted that this is also a philosophy, although not all scientists recognize this. Thus, legal regulations in the theory and practice of sustainable development are used, but ignored, that law without ethics, loses its connection with practice, that the use of sociology without philosophy will not reveal all its possibilities in understanding the mentality and culture of a particular society, etc.
And finally, concluding the article, we emphasize that philosophy in a pandemic allows us to identify some bottlenecks in the stability of not only global, but also our local existence. It is not only about ethical, metaphysical and some other components of it, but about the need in each specific society and culture of knowledge from philosophy about the unity of our intellect, morality and culture in order for new trends in development and understanding of sustainable development to spread in collectives, families, etc.

1. Rubtsov, A.V. Viruses and civilizations. On the new influence of bio-cataclysms on the evolution of socio-cultural models and civilizational projects, “Questions of Philosophy”, No. 8, 2020.
2. Davamli inkisafin sosial ve felsefi problemleri (Social and philosophical problems of sustainable development) Baku, “Elm ve tehsil”, 2020.
3. Dialogue of cultures and challenges of the modern era, M.,CANON - PLUS, 2019.
4. Mammadzadeh, I.R Introduction to ethics, Baku, ed. Muallim, 2004.
5. Mammadzadeh, I.R About philosophy. Modern approaches, trends and prospects, Baku, Teknur, 2011.
6. Mammadzadeh, I. Philosophy about modernity, history and culture In:On the contours of historical and cultural epistemology, ed.Elm ve tehsil, 2020.
7. Mamedov, Fuad Culturology. Culture, Civilization. Baku, OL, 2015.

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