• Janus
    6.2k
    Here I disagree strongly; I think that all such notions of esoteric or hidden knowledge are, to put it bluntly, elitist bullshit. — Janus


    Thanks for clearing that up.
    Wayfarer

    I wish I could clear up all that elitist bullshit, but I don't have a big enough shovel! :joke:
  • Wayfarer
    6.9k
    It [the form] must necessarily be temporally prior...Metaphysician Undercover

    But if 'the form' is located in time, then presumably it's also located in some place. Or, perhaps it is something that unfolds or evolves, in modern terms? But then, absent 'telos' - some end to which organisms are directed - then how is the form anything other than adaptive necessity?

    But then - maybe this is exactly why Aristotelianism has made a comeback as 'neo-Aristotelianism'. One of the main drivers for that, seems to be the necessity of accomodating 'telos'.

    (One of the interesting philosophers of biology in this respect is Simon Conway Morris, and his idea of 'convergent evolution' in his book Life's Solution. That can be seen very much in terms of 'the realisation of forms through evolutionary processes' and is quite compatible with an Aristotelian view.)

    No one, not even the Buddha or Christ, could have any way of knowing for sure that what they might think they know is not a delusionJanus

    And you know this how?

    Seriously, though - the name 'Buddha' means precisely 'one that knows', and whilst I certainly don't think that anyone ought to feel compelled to accept that the Buddha did really know, I think the blanket claim that 'it simply could not have been the case' that he knows, is too much.

    There is an entire division of scholastic Buddhist philosophy on 'pramana', "means of knowledge", which corresponds with 'epistemology'. And it is exceedingly rigorous, and very thorough in respect of what constitutes delusion and what is beyond it.

    I guess it all depends on what one thinks "love of wisdom" means. It depends on how one defines and thinks about wisdom.Janus

    I once wrote a farewell post on the old forum, called 'secular philosophy and me'. It was about the realisation that I'm not interested in secular philosophy per se and why I was going to stop posting on forums. And the reason for that was because the point that interests me about philosophy always was the possibility of 'enlightenment'.

    Now of course that opens the whole can of worms as to what 'enlightenment' means. I have, of late, discovered Kant's essay What Is Enlightenment?, regarded as one of the foundational texts of the Enlightenment, although it is in his typically laborious style and is very much a reflection on the historical circumstances.

    I have also learned that the word 'enlightenment' in the context of popular Eastern mysticism had been translated from the Buddhist term 'bodhi', and that this translation was chosen by then editor in chief of the Pali Text society, all the better to reflect his conviction that Pali Buddhism was a 'religion of science' or at least compatible with science, in the sense Kant would have approved (a claim which is not without its merits, although it also has some major problems.)

    But I say all of this, because my 'meta-philosophy' has always been that philosophy really is 'the love of wisdom', or 'love~wisdom' in the mystical and affective sense that this was understood in the pre-modern world - Greek, Indian and Christian. It really is a way of being and a way of transforming the understanding, of learning to see life in a different way. (Which is why I admire Pierre Hadot, as about one of the only recent scholars who sees philosophy in those terms.)

    Obviously, mine is a minority attitude, and I often think about ceasing from posting here, because the kind of interest I have in the subject is different from and even antagonistic to that of secular philosophy generally. But I've become habituated to forums, it seems. :sad:

    So I do believe there are demonstrably forms of 'higher understanding' that the aspirant of philosophical wisdom has to cultivate. Yes, it's the religious side of philosophy, but it's different to religion, per se, because it is critical, it is self-aware and reflective in a way that is incompatible with religious belief simpliciter. But what I'm interested in is precisely this 'vertical dimension' which has completely fallen out philosophical discourse since medieval times.

    This conviction has been the source of the acrimony has sometimes affected our interactions here the last few years. Unfortunately, I suppose, I am never going to change my view on the matter but at least here we have come to some understanding of where the difference lies.
  • Janus
    6.2k
    And you know this how?

    Seriously, though - the name 'Buddha' means precisely 'one that knows', and whilst I certainly don't think that anyone ought to feel compelled to accept that the Buddha did really know, I think the blanket claim that 'it simply could not have been the case' that he knows, is too much.
    Wayfarer

    The point is: what was it that the Buddha knew; what was it that you could possibly say he might have had absolute knowledge of? Whether there is a God or gods? He disagreed with Jesus about that! Whether there is an afterlife, either rebirth or resurrection? He disagreed with Jesus about that too, apparently. That all life is suffering and that we should cultivate detachment? He disagreed with Jesus about that as well. So what is this "infallible higher knowledge" that Buddha could be said to possess?

    Unfortunately, I suppose, I am never going to change my view on the matter but at least here we have come to some understanding of where the difference lies.Wayfarer

    Now, I would say that is unfortunate and that is is also deeply contra to the spirit of philosophy to maintain a disposition which precludes the possibility that you will ever change your view. Philosophy is a search for truth, (if it is anything more than a merely aesthetic pursuit of ideas for their own sake) and anyone who is convinced that their beliefs already reflect the truth is ill-suited to philosophy, I would say.

    Also, I have read Hadot, and I don't agree that he sees philosophy the way you do, as an intuition of higher esoteric knowledge. There is no perennial wisdom, but there may be different ways of living wisely in different times and cultural contexts, and I believe this is what Hadot is on about.

    The so-called "vertical dimension" you allude to is rightly fallen out of favour, because it is based on the idea that there are truths which have rational import, and yet cannot be rationally demonstrated or even articulated, which is a contradiction, an inconsistency and an incoherency. And as i mentioned before it is also an elitist idea that lends itself to the most egregious of social abuses.

    Such ideas have no place in philosophy, which is a domain of intersubjective discussion and critique; although of course I acknowledge the right of any individual to believe that the pope is infallible or that the Buddha saw absolute reality for what it is, or that his or her Guru is perfectly enlightened or whatever.

    The point is that they have no warrant to inflict those kinds of beliefs on others, or to expect others to be convinced just on the basis that they themselves are convinced. Unless they can articulate sound and valid empirical and rational reasons for believing whatever it is they believe then they cannot do any worthwhile philosophy with it, either. Effectively all they can do is keep repeating, "But this is what I believe...". Doing that does not constitute doing philosophy.

    If by "cultivating higher forms" all you meant is becoming a better person, morally, ethically, aesthetically and intellectually, then I would agree that that is, or at least should be, an integral part of philosophy.
  • Metaphysician Undercover
    4.8k
    But if 'the form' is located in time, then presumably it's also located in some place. Or, perhaps it is something that unfolds or evolves, in modern terms? But then, absent 'telos' - some end to which organisms are directed - then how is the form anything other than adaptive necessity?

    But then - maybe this is exactly why Aristotelianism has made a comeback as 'neo-Aristotelianism'. One of the main drivers for that, seems to be the necessity of accomodating 'telos'.
    Wayfarer

    Yes, I think "telos" is the key point. Notice Aristotle's comparison between natural and artificial things. It is clear, in the case of artificial things, that the form, as the idea, concept, or blueprint, is prior in time to the material thing which is produced. This is the essence of final cause, the intelligible idea is prior in time to the sensible (material) thing which comes into being, and the idea acts as a cause to bring that material thing or material state, into existence. In Aristotle's example of final cause, health is the cause of the man walking. It is the idea of health, which causes the man to walk, so "health" exists as an idea for the man, prior to the man walking, and is the cause of that material state, the man walking.

    This is why "the good" is pivotal to intelligibility for Plato. It provides a principle whereby the true relationship between ideas (intelligible objects) and material existence (sensible objects) may be developed. The good is the desired end, the thing sought, and that is the final cause. The idea of the thing sought, is the cause which brings into existence the material thing. Once the existence of material things is seen in this way, such that ideas precede in time the material objects, and ideas are by way of "telos" the cause of existence of the material objects, this perspective as a fundamental principle, is extended to all of material existence. That is how sensible objects, material existence, becomes intelligible. Why did God create the universe? He saw that it was good. So all material existence is derived from Forms, by the will of God. This temporal relationship between the Forms and material existence is what Plato explores in the Timaeus.

    The nature of reality, and the whole relationship between sensible objects and intelligible objects is a very complicated puzzle. But I believe that placing the intelligible as prior in time to the sensible, as the concept of "creation" does, is a key piece which facilitates the placing of many other pieces which will start to fall into place when this temporal principle is adhered to..
  • Wayfarer
    6.9k
    The so-called "vertical dimension" you allude to is rightly fallen out of favour, because it is based on the idea that there are truths which have rational import, and yet cannot be rationally demonstrated or even articulated, which is a contradiction, an inconsistency and an incoherency.Janus

    They most certainly can, within the appropriate 'domain of discourse' - which has generally what has now been lost.

    placing the intelligible as prior in timeMetaphysician Undercover

    I'm still having a problem with this. In my view, 'the intelligible object' has an ontological rather than a temporal priority - like, it is 'before' in the sense of 'a priori' or 'prior to', not in the sense of linear time, but in terms of being nearer to the origin or source of being. So - not prior in time, but prior to time.
  • Wayfarer
    6.9k
    I have read Hadot, and I don't agree that he sees philosophy the way you doJanus

    This is what I had in mind:

    Pierre Hadot, classical philosopher and historian of philosophy, is best known for his conception of ancient philosophy as a bios or way of life (manière de vivre). ...According to Hadot, twentieth- and twenty-first-century academic philosophy has largely lost sight of its ancient origin in a set of spiritual practices that range from forms of dialogue, via species of meditative reflection, to theoretical contemplation. These philosophical practices, as well as the philosophical discourses the different ancient schools developed in conjunction with them, aimed primarily to form, rather than only to inform, the philosophical student. The goal of the ancient philosophies, Hadot argued, was to cultivate a specific, constant attitude toward existence, by way of the rational comprehension of the nature of humanity and its place in the cosmos. This cultivation required, specifically, that students learn to combat their passions and the illusory evaluative beliefs instilled by their passions, habits, and upbringing. To cultivate philosophical discourse or writing without connection to such a transformed ethical comportment was, for the ancients, to be as a rhetorician or a sophist, not a philosopher.

    Askesis of Desire

    For Hadot, the means for the philosophical student to achieve the “complete reversal of our usual ways of looking at things” epitomized by the Sage were a series of spiritual exercises. These exercises encompassed all of those practices still associated with philosophical teaching and study: reading, listening, dialogue, inquiry, and research. However, they also included practices deliberately aimed at addressing the student’s larger way of life, and demanding daily or continuous repetition: practices of attention (prosoche), meditations (meletai), memorizations of dogmata, self-mastery (enkrateia), the therapy of the passions, the remembrance of good things, the accomplishment of duties, and the cultivation of indifference towards indifferent things. Hadot acknowledges his use of the term “spiritual exercises” may create anxieties, by associating philosophical practices more closely with religious devotion than typically done. Hadot’s use of the adjective “spiritual” (or sometimes “existential”) indeed aims to capture how these practices, like devotional practices in the religious traditions are aimed at generating and reactivating a constant way of living and perceiving in prokopta, despite the distractions, temptations, and difficulties of life. For this reason, they call upon far more than “reason alone.” They also utilize rhetoric and imagination in order “to formulate the rule of life to ourselves in the most striking and concrete way” and aim to actively re-habituate bodily passions, impulses, and desires.
  • Janus
    6.2k
    They most certainly can, within the appropriate 'domain of discourse'.Wayfarer

    Which is most emphatically not philosophy. Theology, perhaps?

    This is what I had in mind:Wayfarer

    None of that speaks to any specific metaphysical beliefs about transcendence, but rather to the cultivation of certain existential dispositions and, for example, loosening the grip of unhelpful emotions. To be sure dogma may be helpful in a practical sense, to the living of some people's lives, but this is not philosophy, it is religious practice. The two are not the same. In such practices what is believed or merely entertained for the purposes of discipline does not matter, as long as it works to achieve the desired effect: ataraxia, eudamonia, peace, compassion, love or whatever.

    Also it would be much better if you quoted Hadot directly rather than some "quick and dirty" review of his ideas, which may or may not be tendentious in character. Have you actually read Hadot? Does he actually recommend anywhere that ancient dogmas regarding transcendence should be believed by modern philosophers? Please provides textual evidence if you want to claim that he does.

    The point is that after all these exchanges we have had over the years I still have no clear idea of what it is exactly that you actually want to argue for. You seem to be unable to articulate it, which is never a good sign for, or of, a philosophical standpoint, and yet you nonetheless refuse to let "it" go, whatever 'it' is.

    Now I can sympathize with you, if all you want to say is that the feelings associated with ethical, aesthetic, religious and mystical experience cannot be rendered into propositional or empirical forms and definitively argued for or demonstrated, we know that we can have those kinds of experiences, but cannot say what that shows about the nature of reality.

    So, that the importance of such affective experience should be taken into account; and they should be acknowledged as being an important, even sometimes transformative dimension of human experience, and should not be explained away is acknowledged.

    But a science cannot be made out of them, and they cannot be used to determine metaphysical truths. In fact I can't see how we can have metaphysical truths at all, since people start with different absolute presuppositions. But I also do think that science and overall human experience as it has evolved determines broadly what can be believable to an open mind regarding metaphysics in any historical epoch. No doubt some minds are out of sync with their times and want to look backwards to some purported 'golden age', but I would say they are generally not minds of the open variety.

    In regards to religious or spiritual practice itself, I believe that secular Buddhism and modern existential and apophatic Christianity have shown that no specific beliefs, no particular dogmas, at all are indispensable for spiritual practice. It is practice that counts, not dogma.
  • Wayfarer
    6.9k
    None of that speaks to any specific metaphysical beliefs about transcendence,Janus

    It nevertheless is the point that I wished to make when I referred to Hadot.

    The point is that after all these exchanges we have had over the years I still have no clear idea of what it is exactly that you actually want to argue for.Janus

    Maybe it’s because you don't understand it.
  • Janus
    6.2k
    it’s because you don't understand it.Wayfarer

    A typical elitist response! Give me some cogent idea of what it might be that I don't understand, and I might begin to take it, and you, seriously. As it stands it just looks like you're deluding yourself that you have access to some *special knowledge* that ordinary mortals don't. Don't forget, as i have told you before I meditated consistently daily for about 18 years, and I've had all the same kinds of experiences that you have; I just draw different conclusions from them than you do.

    Note: I know you edited what I have quoted above either after or while I was responding, so for clarity I have quoted what is closer to the substance of your original response. I think it is still essentially elitist even in its current more polite form.
  • Πετροκότσυφας
    979


    I understand then that this other form is not a composite of matter and form. What is it? Is it immaterial? If it's immaterial, how can it change, since movement and change belong to material bodies? If it's not immaterial, then how is it even a form?
  • Wayfarer
    6.9k
    I really do try and offer my perspective, and it's met with, not so much criticism, as what seems to me to be uncomprehending hostility - 'deeply contra the spirit of philosophy', even. So, I give up; if I'm elitist, I guess I will have to live with it. :sad:
  • Πετροκότσυφας
    979


    You don't seem to believe that you're elitist. Just a tad more enlightened. In that discussion you seem to say that you've achieved some kind of transformation, I assume without even being a part of an order. Which goes against what your previous quotes seem to argue. Namely, that transformative mystical teachings and practices are teached to a student by a teacher; otherwise, they should be actively hidden.
  • Janus
    6.2k
    I don't mean to say that you're being deliberately or arrogantly elitist. I'm just saying that the idea of esoteric knowledge is inherently elitist in that it divides humanity into the two classes of the ignorant and the enlightened in an absolute sense. I used to think just as you do now about esoteric knowledge, so I know what that view is all about; and I've thought about it every which way. I've also witnessed at first hand the kinds of abuses such ideas can lead to. And the historical record of such abuses on the larger scale speaks for itself.

    And further, what use is the idea anyway? You don't need such an idea in order to follow a spiritual path and attempt to become a better, kinder, more loving person. You don't need to worry about an afterlife; all that is important is what you do in this life. On the other hand if it helps you overcome your fear of death to believe in an afterlife, and you find that you can believe in such a thing in the absence of what most people would count as convincing evidence, then I say "more power to you".

    But again, the fact that you have your personal beliefs constitutes no reason why anybody else should believe as you do. And even if such beliefs were essential supports to your spiritual practice, it does not follow from that that those beliefs are an essential requirement for the spiritual practices of others, that is for spiritual practice, per se.
  • Janus
    6.2k
    I really do try and offer my perspective, and it's met with, not so much criticism, as what seems to me to be uncomprehending hostilityWayfarer

    Actually I take umbrage at this. I fully comprehend your standpoint, as I used to hold such a standpoint myself. Now, I have offered honest and fairly detailed criticism of that standpoint in good faith and with no intent to offend, and all you have done in response is acted offended and claimed that I musn't understand.

    I honestly don't think it's a tenable standpoint and I've done my best to say why I think that. You have offered no counter-arguments, you have made no attempt to provide any cogent defense of your standpoint or answer any of my objections to it, or even question my arguments. It leaves me wondering what you think the purpose of philosophical discussion is. Surely we are not all here just to keep repeating our opinions over and over without considering that they may require some modification or may even be mistaken?
  • Metaphysician Undercover
    4.8k
    I'm still having a problem with this. In my view, 'the intelligible object' has an ontological rather than a temporal priority - like, it is 'before' in the sense of 'a priori' or 'prior to', not in the sense of linear time, but in terms of being nearer to the origin or source of being. So - not prior in time, but prior to time.Wayfarer

    I fully apprehend this issue and it's a difficult one. When "prior to" is analyzed for meaning, it can only be grounded in the temporal sense. So "origin or source of being" is only intelligible as a temporal description. I know that it can be laid out in some sort of hierarchy of importance, but even "importance" needs to be grounded through a relation to a principle of validation. And any such hierarchical relation must itself be grounded in some such principle.

    Take numbers for instance, 1 is before 2 which is before 3, etc.. But "before" only makes sense in relation to the temporal process of counting, and this presupposes 1 as the first in time. If we remove that temporal relation, then 3 is more than 2 which is more than 1. Now we have reversed the priority by grounding in a relation to quantity rather than to temporal order, 3 is "more" than 2 which is "more" than 1. But the numbers are said to be infinite, so if a higher quantity is of "more importance", therefore a higher priority, then we have given ourselves no end, nothing to ground this priority.

    Now the issue with time, and what you say, "not prior in time, but prior to time", is avery important one, and I brought up briefly with Janus earlier in the thread. The anti-dualist will always refer to a problem of interaction. "Prior to time", or "outside of time", or "eternal" in this sense of the word, leaves such Forms as inactive because time is a necessary condition for activity. What I explained is that this problem is the result of an inadequate concept of time, which forces us to categorize immaterial Forms as outside of time. Time is conceptualized in relation to spatial change such that spatial relations define time. Under this conception of time, there can be no time passing without spatial change occurring. But this is counter-intuitive, and we know that it is logically possible for time to be passing without any spatial changes occurring. That faulty concept of time excludes this possibility, along with the possibility that non-spatial Forms are active in this time when no material changes are occurring.

    That way of conceptualizing of time produces this division of incompatibility or incommensurability between the temporal, sensible world, and the non-temporal intelligible world. This issue is central to the work of St. Augustine who takes the rare position of describing this division between the sensible and intelligible, as a division between the temporal and the non-temporal. Through contemplation, the free will may be guided by the non-temporal intelligible objects, to resist the temptation of the temporal world. But when comparing the free will of human beings to the intellect of God, an irresolvable problem develops. How can the human being have free will if God knows all? At this point, the problem with the conception of time, which creates the divided reality between the temporal and the non-temporal is revealed.

    The so-called "non-temporal" is not really completely outside of time, it is made to appear as outside of time because our conception of time excludes it. Under this conception of time, the Forms must of necessity be placed outside of time, because it would be contradictory to allow them within time. But this is only because we have defined "time" in such a way so as to exclude the Forms from temporal existence. When we recognize that our concept of time doesn't properly model reality, thus excluding the activity of the Forms, we realize that the concept of time is inadequate.

    Are you familiar with Aquinas' concept of "aeviternal"? This concept allows us a medium between the truly eternal (outside time) God, and the temporal, sensible world. In essence, it allows for creation, because it provides that a Form can come into being in time. He uses it to account for the existence of angels which are created, immaterial Forms, having providence over material existence. Notice that having been created, they have a beginning in time, and are therefore not properly outside of time, yet their continued existence into the future is indefinite or infinite. This allows that an immaterial Form, as derived from the intellect of God, may have a beginning in time. This is derived from the Neo-Platonist conception of procession, or emanation, under which, the immaterial Forms are given a temporal order.

    I understand then that this other form is not a composite of matter and form. What is it? Is it immaterial? If it's immaterial, how can it change, since movement and change belong to material bodies? If it's not immaterial, then how is it even a form?Πετροκότσυφας

    By "other form", I assume that you mean the immaterial Forms, such as the soul, number, geometrical constructs, and essences. Please read my reply to wayfarer above. If we place these Forms as outside of time, we rob ourselves of the capacity to understand their causal efficacy. But clearly though, in the minds and hands of human beings these Forms are causal in creating things, and this is something which we ought to try to understand. Therefore we must adapt our concept of time such that these immaterial things may be active in the creation of material objects. So if "movement" and "change" refer to the activities of material bodies then we need to allow for another type of activity which is the activity of immaterial Forms.
  • Πετροκότσυφας
    979


    No, I mean the form we are discussing, the non-soul form.
  • Metaphysician Undercover
    4.8k

    OK, let me go back to your question.

    I understand then that this other form is not a composite of matter and form. What is it? Is it immaterial? If it's immaterial, how can it change, since movement and change belong to material bodies? If it's not immaterial, then how is it even a form?Πετροκότσυφας

    The "material body" is a composite of matter and form. When the body changes the old form is replaced by a new form. Matter provides the continuity so that we can identify it as, and say that it is still the same body, only changed. Strictly speaking we cannot say that a form is "changing", because the laws of logic disallow this. So one form is replaced by another form, and the two cannot coexist, nor can there be a time in between, when the body has no form, by the laws of logic. But since this activity is going on, we say that the form of the body changes, when in reality one form is replaced by another form. The body remains the same body, but we say that the form of the body has changed when reality one form has replaced another. Matter persists, unchanged.

    So the form is immaterial only to the extent that it is separable from the matter. When we talk of a material body, we tend to think that the form and the matter are inseparable. We think that there is a unity which is a material body. However when we apprehend the fact that the material body is changing, and therefore one form replaces another form, then we must understand that the form is necessarily independent from the matter, in order that this exchange of form can occur while the matter persists as the same matter.

    Therefore the form is immaterial. and, this activity of change which occurs to the material body is an activity of the form. The problem that we have, as I described in the last post, is that we have an inadequate concept of time to allow for this activity of form.
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