Philosophy, or a Vision into the Essence of Things otherwise known as the Forms, Pt 1.
What is philosophy? I was asked this question by my professor, and without being able to answer systematically or comprehensively, the first answer which came to mind was a remark in Plato’s Theaetetus, spoken through the character of Socrates:
SOCRATES: I see, my dear Theaetetus, that Theodorus had a true insight into your nature when he said that you were a philosopher; for wonder is the feeling of a philosopher, and philosophy begins in wonder. (own italics)
Philosophy is primarily a feeling of awe and amazement of the universe. My own first experience with philosophy, following in this tradition, was a dream I had as a child. In that dream, I envisioned a cave which expanded to infinity. I was shaken. If I could imagine this, just imagine what is actually out there in the universe, beyond my own thinking. More than that, what was the infinite, for I could never reach it yet I could see, and feel it, its absence, like an untiring dog turning each corner of a maze just before I could spot him.
I have heard many people recount these types of stories, where the infinite plays itself out in the dream-world. One person related to me a dream where he was traveling on a bridge that simply never ended. It’s the same feeling one has when looking at the horizon of the ocean.
Our minds are mathematically-inclined: able to understand magnitude. But that same faculty which allows us to comprehend discrete number, transcends itself, to understand the infinite and without number. Such a comprehension overwhelms this faculty and induces the feeling of sublimity and awe; that there is so much more out there, unending variation and possibility.
We may say that there exists a hierarchy of order within the universe, whose categories encompass the vast and exhaustive scope of what is knowable to humans. The Form of knowledge can be divided into three simple categories, Objective, Subjective, Revelation, and one compound: Objective — Subjective
- The Divine, or Second Degree Order, the Order behind Order
- The Mathematical, or First Degree Order, the Form of Potentiality
- The Logical, or Consistent
- The Physical, or the Actualized Laws of Objects and their Interactions
- The Chemical, or the Stuff of Objects
- The Biological, or the Systems of Living Objects
- The Psychological, or the Internalization of Experience
- Character Development
- The Phenomenological, or how the Universe interacts with the Individual
- The Epistemological, or what is the validity of knowledge
- The Existential, or what is the Individual’s Purpose in the Universe
- The Political, or the Ordering of Societies
- The Moral, or what is the Individual and Societal Responsibility
- The Economic, or the Productive and Distributive Aspects of Society
- The Uncovering of Non-Rational Laws of the Universe imposed by the Absolute Being
- The Description of the Nature of the Absolute Being, as It Relates to Itself and the Universe
- The Narrative of the Universe, or how the Universe was Actually Created
- The Relationship between Man and God
The Divine is primarily interested in the concept of Absolute Being. By Absolute Being, I mean the contemplation of an eternal, transcendent Being. By Being, I mean the Form of Order itself, of which we can only contemplate partially insofar as it is actualized in this specific universe. The Absolute Being is limitless, and above any definition, or essentiality. This is its essence, the essence of essence. The Thing which determines individually and collectively the essence of the universe, from the particle to the universe itself.
As you can tell from the language I have used, we can know very little of this Being from philosophy itself, and I will leave the proper discussion of this for my section on Revelation.
The Divine is secondarily concerned with the Nature of Transcendent Beings, or the gods. This is what constitutes the notion of holiness, a kind of dual separation and embeddedness in the world. Beings can partake in the nature of the Absolute Being, and to the extent they approximate It, the further detached are they from this universe. This field constitutes the desires and actions of those divine beings.
The Mathematical is primarily interested in Form and Potentiality. Its unique property is that it applies to any type of creation, whether in this universe or another which follows completely different physical laws. The Laws of Mathematics are essentially universal. Only two Ideas are needed for Mathematics to exist. The empty set, or 0, and the set of all sets, or infinity. A relationship between these two Ideas produce the entire scope of magnitude, or number, and the various operations (addition, subtraction, multiplication, division, integration, derivation etc etc.). 0 allows for less; infinity for more.
The essence of the Logical is that laws are consistent. The Logical ensures continuity of Being. This means that given an exact set of circumstances, the result is the same when those same exact circumstances occur again.
The set of the Divine, the Mathematical and the Logical produce the Ideal part of Creation.
The essence of the Physical is that Objects have Imperfect Real Existence. It is a compound of the Ideal and Real Existence. By Real Existence, I mean the imperfect actualization of the Ideal. The imperfection of Real Existence constitutes the essence of the Real World, or else there would be no difference between the Real and the Ideal, and then the world could only exist within thought.
The Physical follows the Law of Two, and the Law of the Tendency Towards the Mean. The essence of this universe is a unified multiplicity. By unified multiplicity, I mean the compound of attractive opposites. These opposites try to become the other in proportion to their original essence. The mean of opposites is static, and creates a transcendent third substance.
The essence of the Chemical is that Real Existence has a kind of stuff-ness to it. The physical composition of matter is Real, not just Ideal and can partake in variation.
The essence of the Biological is that Real Existence consists of recursive Chemical processes. Because particles replicate themselves imperfectly, variation and complexity arise. This imperfect recursiveness leads to complex, living beings. The Biological is a form of the complex Chemical.