Monday, March 24, 2003

Here are the next three thesis statements... you know the drill by now, I suppose...

4. The World of Eidos is the realm of perfect, universal, and unchanging forms. It is the absolute world of essences. Plato's Allegory of the Cave illustrates the World of eidos vis-a-vis the sensible world.

The Platonic idea of the World of Eidos is an overwhelming conception of a metaphysical world that transcends the physical plane. The world of Eidos is the world of the universal, timeless, and perfect. In this world, everything we see is nothing more than a participation in this metaphysical world of perfection. A world of essences, so to speak. For every single human being we see, that human being participates in the perfect idea of humanity. Interestingly enough, this perfect idea of humanity that exists in the World of Eidos is not a human being.

Interesting questions can indeed be drawn from this. Yes, we have seen an apple tree, or perhaps a mango tree. But have we ever truly seen a tree, in its perfect sense? Of course we haven’t, and we won’t because the perfection of a tree in itself is not itself a tree, to begin with. But it is the pinnacle of the “treeness” of the tree. For what else can make a tree a tree but its “treeness”? The sensible world to Plato is something that is imperfect, and merely participant in the different perfect ideas in the World of Eidos in varying degrees of intensity. Nonetheless, this does not exclude from us the chance to catch glimpses of this perfection in what is sensible to us.

Plato’s “Myth of the Cave” speaks of people who are living in cave, completely ignorant of the world that is, and how, when someone manages to come into the world that is, he is overcome by what he sees. No longer does he see everything as mere shadows. He is illuminated, and the illumination is immensely powerful. Were he to return to the cave and tell the people with him what he has seen, it is unlikely for them to believe him. This reminds Marcelle of the film “The Eye”, of how a lady who was blind all her life, through a corneal transplant, manages to see for the first time, and is overwhelmed by what she has seen (No, not just the horror parts, mind you.). It becomes the philosopher’s burden, such as the man who has been freed from the cave, to elucidate what he has seen, or in the case of the philosopher, contemplated.

Here, we see what the World of Eidos is all about: the cave becomes our physical plane, whilst the world that is becomes the metaphysical world. Throughout our temporal life, we are only shown what is made sensible to us. In spite of this, our minds are capable of transcending this world and thinking upon the World of Eidos, though all we can indeed get are hazy visions of it, for we are not (At present.) immersed in that metaphysical world. Indeed, we see here that Plato believes this world to be something universal, such that his perfect idea of a tree would coincide with Marcelle’s perfect idea of a tree all the same. This kind of universality is what points us to a rather absolutistic notion of truth, but a notion of truth, nonetheless.

To Plato, the sensible world is merely a participation in the perfection that is the metaphysical world. Through our capacity to know and to conceptualize (Which in itself is an “extraction” of an essence, which then becomes a concept when grasped.), we are able to somehow glean for ourselves what the World of Eidos is all about. This is essentially what the Myth of the Cave has been attempting to present to us: the possibility to know perfection by thinking upon what is sensibly available to us. We may not be immersed (currently) in the World of Eidos, but our participation in it enables us to see glimpses of it. In fact, it is the mission of the human person to regain our knowledge of this world, for (As Plato believes.) we were originally from the World of Eidos, and our mission is anamnesis, or remembering what we were once part of.

Glimpses of perfection can be seen in contemplating upon perfection itself. When one considers the very nature of perfection, and how the things of this world are imitations (Though imperfect.) of this perfection. One may also contemplate perfection by perceiving the “whatness” of an object, vis-à-vis its mere “thatness”. We may say an object is “that”, but not know exactly “what” it is. We may say that Chicago is a great musical, but we may not know what Chicago truly is. When one manages to get a glimpse of this absolute, timeless, immutable world through contemplation, then he may begin to speak truth (In a Platonic sense.), knowing that the things he speaks of in the World of Eidos are timelessly true. In our attempt to begin speaking about truth, what we are led to do now is to make an evaluation of an object, and through this evaluation, by recognizing the essence of this object, we may then ascertain whether or not our evaluation is indeed true.

In using the World of Eidos to speak of truth, we are regarding this timeless world of ideas to be the standard by which our pronouncements will thus be recognized as true or in error. It is interesting to point out here, though, that this truth is more conceptual in nature than it is sensate-observant. One need not see Mahatma Gandhi doing acts of goodness for us to evaluate him to be good. In this point of view, so long as Gandhi's essence is seen to be good, then we can evaluate him to be so. Regardless of this critique, the fact that this has opened up the opportunity for us to speak about truth is a remarkable and valuable milestoen in itself that we must appreciate for its significance and implications: that indeed, there is a standard of knowing what truth is.

5. Consciousness is never wrapped up in itself, never solus ipse. Over and above the epistemological problem, Husserl reveals the intentional nature of consciousness, while Heidegger questions the problem itself, for the human being is In-der-Welt-sein.

Consciousness has been hammered upon by Rene Descartes as being alone and by itself, or solipsistic. In employing the Universal Methodic Doubt, Descartes came to the conclusion that the only thing that is certain is that by thinking, he exists, and that makes him a thinking substance. This becomes problematic, as he now has created a gap between himself as a cogitans, with the rest of existence, imagining himself to be inside a cage, locked away from the rest of existence, whose reality he doubts. This solus ipse that Descartes has spoken of has not gone uncriticized for the sheer difficulty it presents in living daily life. How can one’s consciousness be wrapped up in itself, when it actually seems to be immersed in a world of being? Are all these manifestations he senses and thinks upon nothing more than illusions? This is the stage of viewing consciousness as something that is closed: an idea that has been challenged numerous times by other thinkers.

Husserl’s repudiation of this idea was clear in his explicitation about consciousness as possessing an intentionality. Borne out of his view of phenomenology, he realizes that one must close off an object-of-knowing in a bracket free from biases. We call this the epoche. Furthermore, it is then that we use eidetic reduction to extract the essence of this object, and use transcendental phenomenological reduction to see its significance in our experiences. Thus, he does not believe that the cogitans is closed off from the rest of the world, simply because he can open up himself, as a subject, in order to know an object.

We must realize that in and itself, consciousness is never wrapped up in itself because it is fundamentally an openness; a co-immediate openness, so to speak. It is a mode of existence, and there is no state of alienation that one needs to overcome (In contrast to Descartes’ problem of the bridge.). Husserl speaks of a perceiving consciousness that is always a being-with-reality, yet is not itself consciousness. It is a being-open-for and even directed-to reality (“Free your mind”, as the famous Matrix line goes.). It does not necessarily represent an entitative being, but it is a step in the right direction: a breaking of the notion that consciousness is wrapped up in itself. Here, by speaking of an intentional being, we see a human being whose entire being consists of referring-to-reality. It is difficult to imagine a being that is conscious for the sake of consciousness. One is, more often than not, conscious of something. Anyone who ever tries to think of nothing at all will inadvertently think of something, as it is clearly impossible. The human being simply cannot close itself off into itself, even if it wanted to, contrary to how Descartes saw it. This is because in the realm of intentionality, the world is presence-to-hand, in that we call attention to the things in our world. By calling attention to the things in our world, we show that we are not closed off from this world. In his view, this cage he is in is not at all locked. He opens this cage in order to call attention to what is phenomenologically around him, and in doing so, he manages to know these objects.

Or was there no need to doubt the existence of these things to begin with? Heidegger, in the third step to actually working out this epistemological question, speaks of the human being as In-der-Welt-sein (A being-in-the-world.), and as such, is already immersed in a world that is already ready-to-hand. The consciousness here is engaging itself in the world, with the world. It is clear that for Heidegger, one already exists in an already given world, so for Descartes to challenge this notion that has been clear from the start is in itself already absurd. The world is available to us and present-to-hand. We need not call any attention to it, because we are completely immersed in the world. This time around, a human being, who was caged in Descartes' idea, who was in an open cage in Husserl's, no longer has a cage to begin with, and is immediately within the world, as the world is immediate to him as well.

Heidegger then addresses the scandal of Philosophy, which becomes the question of how the subject can know the object. This question seems to be something so easy to answer, but in light of the so-called problem of the bridge, how can this kind of knowledge be possible? Simply put, this question seems to imply a non-existent gap; a residue of the notion of one’s consciousness as being solipsistic. Asking about how one can know an object implies a gap between the subject and knowledge, and this gap, in light of a human’s being In-der-Welt-sein, is not even a problem to begin with.

Thus, Heidegger’s elucidation brings to light something important: knowledge is a determinant of one’s existence, for in what one knows, his or her existence becomes determined in that his or her thoughts, words, and deeds are governed by what he or she actually knows. Likewise, we must no longer ask the question of how the subject can know the object, but rather, ask what the conditions for knowledge are instead.

6. The world in which we dwell is a system of intelligible meanings. The intelligibility is given expression by concepts. The concept is not a schematic image of the terminus encountered by one's knowing, for concepts are abstract and universal. Thus, we can make judgments- saying what is, that is. Any judgment then is either true or false and never both. Truth is the agreement of the judgment with the state-of-affairs. In this context, knowledge is becoming, for it is conditioned by one's mode of existence.

Beings-in-the-world all exist with a system of intelligible meanings. In order for one to make heads and tails regarding his or her life (A product of the human person’s being a thinking substance.), he or she must implement this system, which primarily entails engaging in dialogue between the self and what one is attempting to understand. This very process is what we have come to regard as a concept. Here, when we pay attention to the termini of both the spiritual and sensitive facets of knowing, a distinction manifests. Through this act of knowing, a definite worldly object now takes on a higher level, above being nothing-for-oneself. By understanding it, there is a quiddity-for-oneself with regard to the object, as we now see the whatness of an object as it imposes itself upon one. This is aided in conjunction with how one manages to make an intelligible meaning out of an object. We can now say “what” an object is, and go beyond “that it is”. This knowing is an immanent act, because it is an act that originates from the subject and remains in the subject as his or her perfection.

Thusly, we now see that this concept is indeed something that allows us to understand. What one understands becomes imposed upon the self, and is assimilated, interiorized, and fixed in an expression. As far as we are concerned, then, in the realm of conceptualizing, we are pointed back into Plato’s direction, regarding the “World of Ideas”. This is because in order to gain a concept, one must be able to extract the essence of an object one is trying to understand (Not that by doing so, the essence of the object disappears.); and this process of conceptualization is exactly the crux of Plato’s elucidations on the world of ideas as a world of perfect essences, of which the things in this world participate in.

But what can we say (Or not say) about a concept, then, knowing where it arises from? First of all, we have to realize that a concept is not a schematic image. A schematic image is a mental picture we might have of something, and concepts do not work that way. If, for instance, we attempted to think upon what the concept of a wrestler is, then we cannot possibly say that The Rock is a concept of what the wrestler is, for if we are going to follow Plato’s world of ideas, then a concept, coming from this world, must likewise be as universal as the world of ideas happens to be. Let’s face it: The Rock is not universally considered to be a wrestler. Some find him to be an entertainer, or perhaps an actor. With this in mind, we cannot say that a concept is a schematic image, for it goes against the notion that a concept should be universal for a concept is applicable to all specific instances of objects the concept is applicable to.

Likewise, we can say that a concept, in that we do not have a concrete mental image of it, must therefore be abstracting in nature. To abstract is to drag something away into sections. We remove the aspect of “this, here, and now” as we attempt to abstract something. That is, one’s idea of “wrestler” does not say “The Rock”, or even “Steve Austin”, or even “Hulk Hogan”. In fact, following Platonic reasoning, the ideal wrestler is itself not a wrestler. This is because what one is doing is to intellectually seize the absolute features or the absolute substance of what one is attempting to know. This naturally discards the individual, accidental features (The eyebrow, the middle finger, the red and yellow bandanas.) of what one is trying to comprehend. It is with this respect that we say abstraction divides.

In spite of this division, we realize that there is something in abstraction that makes it unifying at the same time. When we seize the absolute features of something, it becomes moot to do so if these absolute features do not stand for something. What worth then is abstraction if in its divisive facet, if we cannot make heads and tails of what we are left with? Precisely because understanding is abstractive, it brings into unity the plurality of individual objects. The abstract concept is not cut off from experience in its broadest sense. It does not imply a corruption of knowledge.

Therefore, with our concepts, we are now capable of making judgments, wherein we say what is, that it is. Judgments can only be true or false and not in between with regard to the state-of-affairs. Truth is spoken when the judgment agrees with the state-of-affairs. An error occurs when the judgment disagrees with the state-of-affairs. Therefore, to say that Fr. Carlito Reyes is great-looking is to be in error… err… truth (Following suit from his own examples, that is.). And to be in error is to say that Marcelle will still be getting a B+ in Theology if Fr. Reyes sees this post.

With this in mind, and the fact that knowledge is what determines human existence (In that we usually do only what we know. Do you expect to quickly run Linux without knowing how to?), we can therefore say that knowledge is becoming. With the things one knows, he or she moves towards a self that he or she is becoming (Though he or she is already a self to begin with. Such is the truth of human dynamism.). Becoming is conditioned by one’s mode of existence, and through this logic, we likewise recognize how becoming is governed by what one knows. Our mode of existence, the things we do, and the things we attempt, are easily supplanted by what we know. For instance, Marcelle, given a less affable economic status, would probably not enjoy playing Magic: The Gathering, if that were the case. Marcelle would not know how to, and his knowledge would further be hampered by the dearth of people playing this game in his vicinity.

This implies a lot to us when we apply it to our lives. While, on a superficial level, the things we know are the things we do, the deeper implication of this is what we need to look out for. The worldview that one is in, or the worldview one has determines, shapes, forms, and manifests in the things one does. What one knows is capable of shaping him or her to becoming, and thus, what one can know may either make or break him or her, as different kinds of knowledge have either constructive or destructive effects upon a human being. One can be what one knows, to a great extent.

Perhaps this gives more merit to the maxim that “There is no knowledge that is not power.”

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