No Eternal Return Of The Same: Putin Is New

A basic, fundamental lesson from science is evolution, cosmic, biological, human, and civilizational. And it’s not just evolution, but also progress. So, in a sense, science validates progress. Progress of what? Complexity. A human brain is more complex than the brains of lesser species, those which cannot achieve as much. The genetics driving organisms are also more complex, even from chimpanzee to Homo.

The idea of evolution was already familiar to the Greeks. Philosophers such as Anaximander believed we evolved from fishes and Ancient Greece exported a lot of genetically improved animals, especially horses and cattle. Judeo-Christianism and Islamism captured the idea of evolution, as the Bible evolves towards the revelation, the apocalypse, final judgment, etc….  

Pythagoras said “after certain specified periods, the same events occur again… nothing was entirely newEudemus of Rhodes also references this Pythagorean doctrine in his commentary on Aristotle‘s Physics. In a fragment preserved by Simplicius, Eudemus writes:

One might raise the problem whether the same time recurs, as some say, or not. “The same” has many senses: the same in form seems to occur as do spring and winter and the other seasons and periods; similarly the same changes occur in form, for the sun performs its solstices and equinoxes and its other journeys. But if someone were to believe the Pythagoreans that numerically the same things recur, then I also will romance, holding my staff, while you sit there, and everything else will be the same, and it is plausible to say that the time will be the same.

In Stoic physics, the universe is periodically destroyed in an immense conflagration (ekpyrosis), and then experiences a rebirth (palingenesis). These cycles continue for eternity, repeating the same events in every cycle.

Why did the Stoics love the return of the same so much? Because it was saying there would be no progress, whatever We The People did. So they may as well endure fascists, plutocrats, oligarchs, all sorts of “Hellenistic” kings and queens, and other arrivists. In turn, autocrats, in particular plutocrat in chief Domitian, did not treat the Stoics as severely as other philosophical schools, and they maintained an existence in the triumphant empire, blossoming with Roman emperor Nerva and his successors. Emperor Marcus Aurelius would repeat Stoic teachings he had been taught, faithfully.

Pascal refurbished the idea on the more human level:”Tout a été dit, depuis qu’il y a des hommes et qui pensent” Funny but both some of the ideas of Pascal in computer science and math had been indeed already expressed in Ancient Greece and China, respectively. 

With “eternal recurrence”, one of his obsessions, Nietzsche invented nothing new… And the idea is wrong, whether on the cosmic, Nietschean level, or Pascal’s more basic human angle. This can be seen most clearly when one considers wars, real or potential. War is sometimes a return of the same, sometimes not.

French Air Force patrolling off Ukraine. No eternal return of the same. An image, taken from video released by the Russian Defence Ministry, shows two French warplanes Mirage 2000 and Rafale and a French refueling aircraft tracked by a Russian Su-27 fighter jet (left) in international air space over the Black Sea, December 9, 2021. Russian Defence Ministry/Handout via REUTERS. The Russians claimed they had prevented a penetration of Russian air space (the Mirage on the right has a reconnaissance pod, fully visible hanging below). The French jets were armed with radar and infrared missiles. The US conducted equivalent sorties at the same time… And were dangerously harrassed.

So now we have this self-declared pan-Slavic reuniter and imperator, KGB Vladimir Putin, who wants to put in Moscow’s orbit (Moscovia, as he calls it) all countries he decided are “Slavic”, all the way to Poland and the like. Putin explained to us that Poland and other Slavs, have been victims of Catholicism, and now, NATO… (Never mind that France and Poland have been allies for at least 5 centuries…)

The degree of delusion apparent in the master of the Kremlin has not been seen since before… Hitler. Hitler’s viewpoint was that he wanted to save the German minorities from the Slavs… So Putin shows Hitler in some sense was right: deluded Slavs accusing the West of everything do exist. Putin apparently wants to save Poland, he seems to say… Let alone Ukraine.

Let’s observe France was at war with Russia three times in the last 210 years (1812-1815; 1853-56; 1939-41)… The USA never was at war with Russia, but, contrarily to what Nietzsche and Stoics claimed, things change, and it could well happen. War with a nuclear super power should be new and different. 

Another difference? Differently from what happened in 1914 and 1939, France and her creation, the USA, are, this time, allied from the start.    

We evolve.

Even change evolves. 

War with nukes is not war with sticks.

Patrice Ayme.

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