Man lives amidst shadows. He creates opinions about things that he is not even sure if they exist. And even these things are not entirely real. The scientist can transcend the flawed world of the senses — of the things as they appear to us — and elaborate hypotheses about reality. But only the philosopher comes to see the light and, from it, he can see things as they really are. This is the Platonic theory about the world, a fascinating blend of theory of knowledge and metaphysics.
If there is a world full of objects that are independent of my own body or mind, and if I can only know them through the effects they have on my body’s senses, in turn causing mental states of awareness in my brain where these objects are represented, how can I ever know that these representations correspond to the objects or, in other words, that my perceptions correspond to reality?
I have the potency to act. I have the potency to write. Every one has. Only the perfect act has not potency anymore. An act is relative to its proper potency. The perfect act relative to the potency of writing is the Iliad, Moby Dick, Dune. Potency is imperfection. Most acts are also imperfect, only less. The prototypical imperfect act of writing is what I am doing right now.
Since I shared with you yesterday a very impulsive and rancorous comment on a history of philosophy book, let me counter that with a much lighter analysis, but one as impulsive as the latter. This is actually a great opportunity for me to postpone again my posts on Contemporary Philosophy — my test is already tomorrow, so there is in fact no more pressing need for these posts. My sole aim was to kill two birds with one stone by simultaneously studying and adding to my blog. I am not prepared for Idealism yet — I lack both the academic knowledge and the tolerance right now.
Today I am racing with my (very delayed) study for a test the day after tomorrow on Contemporary Philosophy, hence my previous post and, hopefully, my next few. So I was looking for a single book from which I could extract, in my typical “borderline plagiaristic way”, material enough for quick summary posts and a decent understanding. I was lucky to mention that to a colleague who had just bought a book that seemed to be exactly what I needed: “German Philosophy 1760-1860: The Legacy of Idealism“, by Terry Pinkard. I gave him a ride home, borrowed the book (a real physical one!) and came home, not eager to read it, I must admit, but enjoying the fact that I had a mission that could now be accomplished. Like I said, I am late, so I am doing this sort of speed reading, highlighting just the minimum and not even taking notes when I simply had to stop and write this post. The reason is: I saw evil. I saw evil on page 44.
Historical modernity and modern philosophy are not in sync. The former begins at that great confluence of inventions, conquests, and discoveries that characterize the second half of the 15th century, most importantly, Gutenberg’s press, the fall of Constantinople, and the discovery of America; the latter begins only in the 17th century with Bacon, Hobbes and Descartes. The Renaissance humanism of the 15th and 16th centuries, as well as the Protestant Reformation can be regarded only as a transitional period leading to modern philosophy proper in the 17th and 18th centuries. After Kant dies (1804), we can say that reason has failed, and that the foundations of the irrationality so pervasive today begin. It is that period of growing irrationality from Kant to after the Great Wars that we will call here contemporary philosophy; the period after that, you can give it the name you want.
Maybe it is the terrible mood I am right now, but it was very hard to read Jacques Maritain today. If I want to present a paper in the upcoming conference I need to find something to write about him. But, now that I just finished reading “Christian Humanism”, my impression is that I just listened to Catholic sermon.
As we saw in Porphyry’s quotation in Universalia, he abstained from the fight for the truth about universals. But by referring to the problem only with respect to genera and species, I think that he might have created another problem, a bias in the study of universals that crossed the whole of the Middle Ages and onwards up to our times to befuddle our ignorant minds on the topic — my ignorant mind, at least.
He hears many interesting things, but, fleeting, they go almost as fast as they come; only death remains. Not even the reasons for all those deaths, or the names of the wars, or the approximate dates stay. Nothing but the pure and grotesque fact of so many deaths. Now as he looks into the past from the comfort of the future, time compresses, reality loses importance, and absurdity seems little more than mere words, words that not even use ink and paper anymore.
“Honesty” is the refusal to fake reality, that is, to pretend the facts are different from what they really are. If rationality is commitment to reality, honesty is the rejection of unreality. The rational man recognizes that existence exists; the honest man, that only existence exists.