“Ennead I” by Plotinus

ennead_1

What is Consciousness

One of the things that came to mind when I read Ennead I was Alzheimer disease. I’ve heard some say that advanced Alzheimer disease makes life not worth living, and that people afflicted with this disease have become less than human. Although I strongly rejected this opinion, I did it intuitively and on emotional grounds, but failed to make any strong counter-arguments. Plotinus wrote some of his treatises on consciousness, soul and well-being when he was close to death, perhaps he had struggled with these issues personally and therefore wrote with conviction.

Consciousness, according to Plotinus, is like a mirror, it reflects the state and activity of our mind, but it is not the activity of our mind itself. Our mind remains active even when we are not conscious of it. Even when our brain has suffered damages or diseases, our mind is intact. This is in accord with Plato’s dichotomy between soul and body, mind and matter.

Intelligence transcends mind and matter, and yet it permeates all, because all things partake in its form or its image to various degrees. Our reason, i.e. reflexive thinking, is derived from Intelligence. It possesses the form of Intelligence, but it is not Intelligence itself. To use an analogy, the relationship between reason and Intelligence is rather like that between art and life. The closer reason approaches Intelligence, the better it is.

Aristotle wrote, “It is the mark of an educated mind to be able to entertain a thought without accepting it.” Viewed in the current context, it may be understood that our mind only accepts a thought akin to its own state, and rejects that which is contrary to itself. In other words, our consciousness is reflecting not only our own mind, but also someone else’s, like a theater with more than one actors on stage. What Aristotle calls “educated” is really synthetic, not pure in essence.

Descartes’ statement, “I think, therefore I am”, is not necessarily true. Because “I” may be reflecting other people’s thoughts. and void of intelligence myself, like a mindless parrot or anything capable of echoing.

What is Perception

The Latin root for perception means literally to take in, grasp. The Epicureans and Aristotle argue that sense-perception implies change in the recipient. If there is no change, there is nothing grasped, and no perception.

Plotinus endeavors to reconcile this argument with the Platonic conception of soul as immutable by positing an intermediary, namely, the living being, which is the product of the soul’s formative power upon the body.

“Soul’s power of perception need not be immediate grasping of sense-objects, but rather it must [discern] the impressions produced by sensation on the living being; these are already intelligible entities. So external sensation is the image of this perception of the soul, which is in its essence truer and is a contemplation of forms alone without being affected.”

The sensible objects are images of intelligible forms, which reside in the realm of the soul, therefore the soul “perceives” the sensible objects, not by reaching out and grasping, but by recollecting itself and contemplating the forms within.

What is Beauty

The things in this world are beautiful by participating in form. Beauty of the body is one kind, and beauty of the soul is another and higher. The soul delights in beautiful things, but much more in virtuous souls, because they are kindred to the beauty within itself. It is a competent judge of beauty, because it has the standard of beauty, the intelligible form, within. The way to Beauty is not through the senses, chasing after shadows of images of beauty, like a man who grasps for a beautiful reflection on water and sinks to the bottom. Only the beautiful can see beauty, and only the pure in soul can see Goodness. Absolute Beauty and Absolute Goodness are one and the same for God, from whom come beauty, goodness and all that belong to real beings.

References:

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47 thoughts on ““Ennead I” by Plotinus

  1. Thank you, days ago I watched a film named “Away from her” which speaks about Alzheimer (a touching storyline), that I am curious when reading your post. You are distinguishing mind from brain that I find it refreshing, that stimulates me to think twice on the ending of that film (a controversial one) …. I look forward to your coming post on Beauty.

    1. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Power_of_Now
      Eckhart Tolle

      http://www.goodreads.com/series/67912-the-iris-trilogy

      http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0280778/

      Some years ago, I was a big fan of Iris Murdoch who is a renowned British writer who died of Alzheimers’. Her husband John Bayley wrote an Iris Triology. At that time, I followed all the related books. And of course the movie Iris (2001) starred by Dame Judy Dench.
      It was a heart-wrenching story. If you have not seen the movie or read the books, I highly recommend that you should.

      There are lots of literature and information about Alzheimer’s in relation to support to caregivers etc.

      About consciousness, again there are so many approaches. I had not been able to grasp the Greek philosophers’ approach to consciousness. But some years ago, I was a fan of Eckhart Tolle’s the Power of Now, who also talked about human consciousness.

      I had not been reading these subjects for a while. Good to read some of these now. Thanks for introducing this blog which I may follow.

      I cannot write more….the format here made my writing jumping up and down…ha ha…it means I have to stop…thanks!

      1. Thanks for your comment, I put mine here : yes I watched that film of Iris Murdoch, very sad but her husband is fantastic. I haven’t read many of her books except one “The Sea, The Sea” …. Surely she writes brilliantly, no doubt.

      2. I didn’t know about the movie. Thanks to you both for mentioning it. 🙂 I just watched a clip, in which Iris said, “Education doesn’t make us happy, but it may be the means by which we realize we are happy.” Replace ‘education’ with ‘consciousness’, and you have Plotinus.

    2. Understanding the nature of consciousness and thought can help us deal with many mental disorders and brain diseases, including Alzheimer, Schizophrenia, etc.

      The idea that the mind/soul is separate from the brain is also hinted at in the movie “A Beautiful Mind”. When a friend asked the long-suffering wife of the schizophrenic mathematician John Nash, how she managed to love and support him through all those years when he had gone insane. She replied, to the effect, that she remembered when she first fell in love with Nash, she had a perfect image of him, and perfect image of him had stayed with her, and that she had to believe the true Nash was the one she had fallen in love with.

  2. I am very familiar with the movie and the book. I read the book and watched the movie. Very few people are like Nash as he is a genius. Both Alzheimer’s and schizophrenia are sad cases. But the family ‘s care makes a difference in the course of the illness.

    The beautiful mind is a great movie. If you have not seen it, you should.

  3. what a delight to come across so probing, so
    perceptive, so disciplined an armchair thinker,
    Nemo, on the Internet

    and so generous with your wisdom

    thank you for your blog, which I will continue
    to frequent

    I object however to a couple of your positions,
    first of all, no matter what there is in the “I” of
    Descartes, what it may contain of anyone else’s
    reflections, is irrelevant, the point is that the “I”
    is aware, intellectually conscious, of itself,
    instinctively, you can be sure, intellectually,
    of yourself, but nothing else, not even what
    you might’ve learned, or thought you’d learned,
    from others, others, incidentally, being also only
    ever sure of only themselves as conscious
    beings, nothing else, everything else is
    speculation, philosophy has never overcome
    that, we won’t be able to, you and I, either

    we are left with a multiplicity of isolated conscious
    selves each with his or her interpretation of the
    multiplicity, trying to find a unifying principle –
    thanks, incidentally, to Plato – which we’ve come
    to call God

    but according to Descartes I can’t even be sure
    that you exist, so that I am the unifying principle,
    which ultimately is also irrelevant cause I’ve lost
    my omnipotence, only half joking here

    Plato’s ideal, in other words, is what you want
    it to be, unless it exists in some primal Jungian
    unconscious that we could never, anyway, be
    sure of

    furthermore Nietzsche made mincemeat out of
    Plato back in the 19th Century, we are now in
    the Age of Supermen, those who find the spirit
    to reorder the world in their own image – did I say
    “in their own image” – see here, for instance,
    Beethoven, or, for that matter, Nietzsche himself,
    beyond, incidentally, as he posits, good and evil,
    morality is a thing of the past, just look around

    cheers

    Richard

    psst: what happened to you introductory
    thoughts on Alzheimers, you left us
    in the lurch

    1. Thank you, Richard, for sharing your thoughts. Welcome to my blog!

      You wrote, ” Nemo, on the Internet and so generous with your wisdom”

      It was Plotinus, not I, who was generous with his wisdom. I was only reflecting his thoughts as I understood them. “Freely you have received; freely give.”

      You wrote, Descartes’ “point is that the “I” is aware, intellectually conscious, of itself,”

      When someone says “I think”, or “I” am aware, he already presupposes the existence of the “I”. So to say next “therefore I exist” is redundant. Perhaps what Descartes really meant was, “There are thoughts, therefore there is a thinker”. This is what I argued against in my post.

      On your second point, if beings are only conscious of themselves but nothing else, how then is it possible for anyone to communicate with another? In the “32 short films about Glenn Gould” you posted on your blog, One of them is titled “Hamburg”, in which Glenn listened to his music recordings in private in his hotel room together with the cleaning lady. Isn’t there a unifying principle that joins the two strangers together in that moment?

      You wrote, “furthermore Nietzsche made mincemeat out of
      Plato back in the 19th Century,”

      I haven’t read Nietzsche yet. But as an armchair Platonist, I think it’s highly unlikely that anyone can make “mincemeat out of Plato”. I’m willing to engage/challenge any follower of Nietzsche in a friendly debate on any subject. 🙂

      Thank you again for contributing. I find lively discussions/debates to be the best way to learn.

      Nemo

      P.S. Where was i unclear about Alzheimers?

      1. in “”How to Grow Old” by Bertrand Russell”, I was
        happy to read again the great philosopher, whose
        works, incidentally, are all quite accessible, except
        for, of course, his earlier mostly inscrutable
        “Principles of Mathematics”, but I was more
        enthusiastic about your own personal observations,
        or what I perceived to be your own observations,
        which greatly invigorated your Plotinus text, given
        your signature at the top under its heading

        also Plotinus could not have written, of course, on
        Descartes, therefore I deduced your script

        your comments were everything I said they were,
        probing, perceptive, disciplined, and I’ll add,
        thoughtful and stimulating, enough to have me
        respond

        be aware, I’m intent on intelligent conversation,
        not dogma, in either direction, and have only
        great respect for what you’re doing, what you
        seem to already have accomplished, I very much
        look forward to reading more, if only to be spurred
        on by your reading list, which is impressive, not to
        mention distinguished

        Descartes said “I think”, not “There are thoughts”,
        which makes a lot of difference, enough to turn
        the rest of philosophical history on its head,
        ironically in trying to prove God, which he didn’t,
        he proved the only thing that can be proven,
        because I think, I am, not because there are
        thoughts there must be thinking

        if you tried to disprove that in your text I didn’t
        get it, you’ll have to do it again

        about Nietzsche, that’s a story and a half, but
        yes, he refuted, to my satisfaction, Plato

        so does Martha Nussbaum, incidentally, a great
        contemporary American philosopher, you ought
        to read her

        Plato’s ideal is static, immutable, and no longer
        has much to say about a universe in flux, if there
        is a god it is the process, ever new and ever
        changing, much like the very nature that
        surrounds us, God, the fruit of Plato’s ideal, is
        dead, died formally with Nietzsche, in the public
        imagination in the Sixties on the cover of Time,
        Plato died with Him definitively there and then

        Martha Nussbaum dots that i

        that’s, respectfully, and humbly, what I think

        Richard

        psst: about Alzheimer’s I’d hoped for a more
        considered, less merely “intuitive”,
        broaching of a difficult, indeed insoluble,
        subject

      2. Your comments invigorated this blog, Richard. 🙂

        Descartes did not prove the existence of “I”. To prove that something exists, you cannot presuppose its existence and say “something” does this or that. In other words, “I exist” is the condition that comes before “I think”, not after. If Descartes wanted to prove the existence of “I”, he made the mistake of circular logic, putting the cart before the horse.

        Even if we grant that the individual is conscious of the “I”. Does the “I” exist as a part, a mere concept, in his thoughts, just as other people exist as mere concepts of his thoughts, or is there an “I” beyond his consciousness? To borrow the imagery of Plotinus, does the Moon exist as part of the reflection in the water, or does it exist independently outside the water?

        Plato’s theory encompasses both change and immutability. They are incomplete without the other, nay, they cannot exist without the other. This is proven by our own experience. We can observe changes only because we’re using something static as a reference.

  4. first of all, Nemo, thank you for this conversation,
    I’m finding this exercise very stimulating, not many
    have called me on my philosophical positions, not
    many, I suspect, having given these positions much
    thought in the first place, you are perhaps a kindred
    spirit, what a delight

    and as such I can only be, respectfully and humbly
    ever, forthright

    in a Socratic, as it were, contract

    this part of Plato, incidentally, is the only part I accept,
    his celebration of the Socratic Method, to put words
    later into the greater philosopher’s mouth, to me, is
    highly unethical, especially to spout with that authority
    such drivel

    you can tell I don’t like Plato

    the flurry of consciousness is the clue, in Descartes,
    the moment of realization, the inkling of perception,
    that allows us to know that something is behind that,
    producing that, without which there would be no
    actuality, that something is what we call “I”

    interestingly, “Cogito, ergo sum”, the Latin, often used,
    translation of the original French, “Je pense, donc je
    suis”, doesn’t show an “I” in its very grammar, which
    is an apt demonstration of the proposition we are
    discussing

    if there is conscioussness of something being
    conscious, something must be being conscious,
    that something Descartes called “moi”, we call
    “me”, others call whatever they call it

    therefore I am

    but I could not have done that without consciousness,
    nebulous and indeterminate consciousness, but that’s
    all we have, all we’ve ever had

    Plato tried to fashion an alternate, paternalistic, I might
    add, conscience driven, later driven-by-Christian-fear,
    reality, somewhere out there, that lasted for all of the
    Middle, did I say Middle or Dark, Ages, a good thousand,
    count them, thousand, years, conservatively even
    speaking

    Nietzsche got rid of that, finally, but still all of nearly
    five hundred years later

    oof

    where does Plato “encompass[–] both change and
    immutability”, “The Republic” makes short shrift of
    that, how is this “proven by our own experience”

    I like “We can observe changes only because we’re
    using something static as a reference”, where did
    you get that, I’ll have to ponder it

    but “static” is my stumbling block, in a world
    I cannot see as in any way static, autocratic,
    unbending

    help

    read also Ovid

    cheers

    Richard

    psst: I’m putting this thrilling conversation on my
    blog, look out for it

    1. The Latin “cogito ergo sum” is actually closer to the interpretation I had in mind at the beginning,”There are thoughts, therefore there is a thinker”. If you accept that as a valid argument, then you’re closer to accepting the existence of God. “There is creation, therefore there is a Creator”.

      The Republic of Plato is not ruled by an autocrat, but by Reason and knowledge. Come to think of it, Plato should be hailed as the Father of Enlightenment. 🙂 I’ve written a post on the Republic too, if you like to discuss it further.

      Plato’s theory of the nature of the universe in Timaeus encompasses both change and immutability, and Plotinus explains this in Ennead II and III.

  5. “Cogito, ergo sum”, Nemo, I have to insist, is
    not “There are thoughts”, as you argue, it is
    “Cogito”, “I think”, “I grasp consciousness”,
    “I perceive”, it is not an acknowledgment of
    any more than its own consciousness, “there
    are thoughts” is a further, and only peripheral,
    application, thoughts themselves are entirely
    speculative and without any firm basis but
    conjecture

    this is a fundamental disagreement in our
    discussion which needs to be recognized
    and acknowledged, it doesn’t seem to have
    been as yet

    “There is creation” therefore, in my opinion,
    is presumptuous at best, though the
    proposition seems manifestly, even
    irrationally, obvious, which has nothing to
    do, nevertheless, with Descartes, and what
    we’re discussing

    should you wish to discuss more intuitive
    subjects, I’ll pass, cause faith, and oratory,
    have no basis in anything other than mere
    seduction, the Greeks called it rhetoric and
    sophistry

    reason, of the Greeks, and of our epoch, is
    still my essential arbiter, though my own
    personal mystical devotion is ardent and
    true

    it is however, my own personal mystical
    devotion, merely evident and convincing
    by example, not argument

    but I digress

    I’ll read your post on “The Republic”, a
    treatise I’ve found even repulsive, I’ll read
    again “Timaeus”, or as much of it as I can
    again tolerate, and read your “Ennead III”,
    or did Plotinus write three “Ennead”s, I
    hope to discover enlightenment

    cheers

    Richard

    psst: o my god, he wrote Vl

    1. Let’s go through it point by point.

      1. When someone says, “I think”, he is obviously thinking of something, i.e., thoughts. I’m aware and conscious of my thoughts.

      2. “I think” necessarily means there are thoughts.

      3. The difference between the statements “I think” and “there are thoughts” is that the latter does not presuppose the existence of the “I”.

      4. To prove the existence of the “I”, we cannot presuppose its existence. Therefore, we cannot use the statement “I think” or anything with a subject “I”.

      5. We are left with the statement, “There are thoughts”.

      Which of the above arguments do you disagree with and why?

  6. first of all, Nemo, let me say that I haven’t had as
    much fun since a couple of weeks ago when a
    friend and I were trying to come to a conclusion
    about the meaning of memory, is memory all of
    one’s memories, or is it the process of
    remembering

    I thought the process set the thing in motion
    after which the memories themselves took
    hold

    but for the process to take hold you need at
    least two memories, my friend more or less
    retorted, I paraphrase

    where does that leave us

    I’m still thinking about it

    perhaps we’ll end up at the same place,
    loggerheads, but let’s try

    I object to your second proposition, ““I
    think” necessarily means there are thoughts”,
    I believe “I think” to mean only “I think”,
    nothing more, nothing less, these two
    words are our speculative arena

    but I admit you have a point, to think
    presupposes a thought, and perhaps
    not as peripherally as I’d thought
    previously, if I refer to my earlier,
    memory, model

    but before you jump up and down in
    apparent victory remember that the
    thought cannot be thought without
    the thinker, who initiates the thought

    an apparent paradox, much like the
    relation between energy and matter,
    which came first

    I believe the consciousness of my
    consciousness came first, and from
    there I evolved the process that gives
    order to my world, memory, and then
    its development into reason

    but that’s just what I think, and, of
    course, I could be wrong

    essentially I, of course, must be wrong
    somewhere, but I’ll never know where

    nor will I know where I’m right, ever

    on questions of philosophical speculation,
    of course, without the advantage of
    mathematics, the closest thing I can think
    of, incidentally, to what we think of as God,
    or is that, to what I think of, me, no one else,
    what do I know of what others are thinking
    of, as God, there goes He, She, It, out the
    window, as a Jungian idea of collective
    unified consciousness, or as a frozen
    Platonic, universally conceded, ideal

    what I do know is that I exist

    that’s also, I think, all you know

    the rest is entirely speculation

    thank you Descartes

    Richard

    psst: all that speculation, note, is what has,
    to my mind, made a paradise, for some,
    of our world, for others a work of always
    fascinating and wondrous invention

    read Proust

    1. Hi Richard,

      Actually Plotinus posited a memory model that might be quite similar to yours if I understand you correctly. There are three components in this model, the object stored in our memory, our act of remembering as if retrieving an object from storage, and the activated/retrieved image of the object in our mind. To answer your friend’s retort, we are all three components combined, though most prominent in the second component.

      You object to the idea of thoughts having their object existence outside our consciousness, but you agree that we’re aware of our thoughts at the same time as we’re aware of our own existence. Is that a fair representation of your position?

      If so, thoughts have just as valid an existence in our consciousness as ourselves. Ergo, there are thoughts. 🙂

      P.S. People who speculate on this stuff have way too much time on their hands.

      1. if I haven’t replied forthwith, Nemo, to your
        comment, it is that I found myself with too
        little time on my hands to do other things
        that required my more immediate, in my
        opinion, attention, though I believe time
        spent speculating is never a waste of
        “way too much time on [one’s} hands”,
        where would Plato be, or Descartes, or
        Russell, Nietzsche, Proust, yes, Proust,
        my most revered lingerer, and the answer
        to all my philosophical prayers, but that’s
        another story I’m sure we’ll get to, if they
        hadn’t dawdled around profundities

        and who’s to say we’re not up to the
        mark, and who could say we are, but
        for conversations that test the waters,
        like this one

        so I, for one, will deliberate when I get
        the chance, which, incidentally, is not a
        lot of the time, despite objections that I
        might be nevertheless still wasting it

        and I return to the fray like a kid to a
        very candy shop

        thanks

        let me point out that Plato would be
        proud of us, would’ve been proud of
        us, to whose time frame should we
        here, do you think, refer, I think Plato
        this time could take prominence, if
        you’ll allow this playful speculative
        divergence

        this, our talk, is his Socrates discussing
        with his Euthyphro, or his other acolytes,
        ephebes, describing the Socratic Method,
        Nemo, we’re carrying on the tradition,
        which 2500 years later still vigorously
        applies

        Plato, incidentally, c. 428 BC – c. 347 BC

        there are a few problems in your argument,
        from my perspective, you say “you agree that
        we’re aware of our thoughts at the same time as
        we’re aware of our own existence”, but that’s an
        extrapolation, I am at the most aware of only
        one thought, that thought being that
        something is thinking, no more, no less

        but reason interjects, applies itself to
        consciousness, and concludes that
        something has just thought, the element
        of time and memory enters the fray here,
        but not yet explicitly, they are the
        handmaidens of consciousness

        if something is thinking, which by the very
        act of thinking this I am doing, something
        must be doing it, I’ve already conceived of
        this consciousness as, for me, irrefutably
        real, having had already an impression
        of it

        whatever other impression I might add to
        this composite, however, is arbitrary and
        therefore moot with respect to what might
        actually philosophically be real

        the world and everything in it is in the eye
        of the beholder

        think about it

        thoughts are an extrapolation from all
        that we can be sure we know, but all
        of it is nothing more than a dream

        see Shakespeare

        “………………………..We are such stuff
        As dreams are made on; and our little life
        Is rounded with a sleep.”

        “The Tempest” – act 4, scene 1
        lines 156 -158

        Richard

      2. Richard,

        You wrote, “I am at the most aware of only one thought, that thought being that
        something is thinking,”

        Unless you argue that something can think without a thought, there are at least two thoughts here. First, the awareness that something is thinking. Second, if something is thinking, that something is thinking a thought. As you said, “consciousness of my consciousness”. There are two “consciousness”:

        There is a thinker who is thinking a thought, and there is an observer who is thinking of the thinker. If the thinker and the observer are the same, the thought becomes an infinite recursion, like an image reflected in two parallel mirrors. This is partly why I said people who speculate this have way too much time, in fact, only eternity would suffice.

        the world and everything in it is in the eye of the beholder

        Where is the beholder himself, if everything is in his eye? Does the world exist when the beholder closes his eye?

      3. you’ve grasped the Cartesian dilemma,
        Nemo, the solipsistic circumference – see
        “This is the census” again on that last
        series of sibilants – that defines our, not
        eternal, as you suggest, but very “mortal
        coil”, our incarnate cage, or soul, if you
        prefer, where “one man in his time plays
        many parts”, or woman, solipsistically
        and fatally, however remarkable, or
        even historic, their contribution

        Plato died, Proust died, either leaving
        merely ephemeral ideas and, however
        celebrated and honoured, dust

        it is a frightening, and sobering, conclusion,
        we cannot escape the prison of our reason
        but with the key alone of our imagination,
        for everything beyond the logic of that first
        statement is conjecture, the play of our fears
        and desires

        something is thinking, I think, then identify
        with, become the vessel of, that idea, or, if
        you prefer, that thought

        that thought is still a conjecture, but it has
        an immediacy you can’t deny, it is your
        entire, quite literally, reality

        but any other thought is of course also
        conjecture, just without the manifest
        incontrovertibility of the idea of one’s own
        existence, my orange might be your red,
        but I’ll never be you, or what I interpret as
        you, which is not at all how the other guy
        sees you either, my lens is merely my
        picture of the world, what is real

        reason has done a great job of holding it
        all together for most of us, but it rests
        fundamentally on the wings of our fallible,
        of course, imagination, but for the absolute
        apparently miracle of mathematics, which
        seems to subsist even without our
        speculation, popping up like signposts
        everywhere, an existential guardian angel,
        Pythagoras, maybe, was right

        not even dimensions, Nemo, I woke up
        after a week in a coma, a car accident, in
        a white room, quiet, empty, with only what
        seemed like motes floating on a ray of light
        coming in from a window, still, ethereal, and
        perhaps, I wondered, part of a new afterlife,
        who knew, I couldn’t assume I was alive, I
        only knew that I existed in an unfamiliar
        environment

        height, I reasoned, and width, I thought,
        were evident, there are at least here two
        dimensions, and calmly contemplated
        the possibility of the same exile the villains
        had felt early in “Superman”, cast away in
        their two-dimensional prisons

        Kant was wrong, I concluded, we do not
        assume time and space as initial certainties,
        I don’t have depth yet

        later a nurse came in from the centre of my
        frame creating at least the impression of a
        third spatial element, after which I
        concentrated on getting better

        that my first thought was of Kant after a
        week in a coma has remained for me a
        searing example of my essentially
        cerebral proclivities, be they ever
        nevertheless so fundamentally
        unsubstantiated, I think that’s a riot

        “Does the world exist when the beholder closes
        his eye”, you ask

        who knows

        though I think not

        Richard

      4. Richard,

        Forgive me for saying so, but it seems to me that your philosophy is quite incongruent with your personality, which is passionate, sensitive and kind. As far as I can tell, you’re much more gregarious than the demented Nietzsche.

        If, as you wrote at the beginning, you can’t even be sure that I exist, why are you taking the trouble to have this conversation? If everything is in a flux, what is there to “grasp” and “tackle”? If all is a figment of the imaginations of beings in their separate cages, what’s the point of conversation? You’re still trapped in your own cage anyway.

        Kant may be wrong about some things, but I do agree with him about the difference between noumenon and phenomenon. Our thoughts revolve around the phenomenal, and consequently, they are in flux, “peripheral” as you put it, or evolving, as some believe. But, this doesn’t negate the noumenon, the eternal and unchanging. To use an analogy in biology, when you observe the growth of a seed or an embryo, it seems to be changing constantly, and if you didn’t know what it was, you would think that everything was in flux, but all the while it remains the same substance: a human being.

      5. what’s to forgive, Nemo, I don’t mind at all being
        called “passionate, sensitive and kind”

        thank you

        and you are right, after a study of philosophy I
        went my own way, which was what philosophy
        had taught me to do, it is a conversation, I
        learned, rather than an ideology, that secular
        cousin of theology, either system oftentimes
        flagrantly autocratic, for instance Plato, or
        take your pick of religions

        along the way I discovered miracles, I wanted to
        talk to my beloved, but somehow I’d only asked
        my dad, who’d died earlier the same year, to
        speak to me from beyond the grave, I’m your
        son, I said, I’ll hear you, and, Nemo, I did, and
        all, eventually, the others, I’ve been talking to
        all of them ever since

        this might seem very strange, of course, but
        you can tell from what I’ve written to date,
        surely, that I’m not entirely demented,
        conversely, maybe I’m inspired, maybe just
        eccentric, who knows, take your pick, so
        long as I’m not, I think, hurting anybody

        Kant, incidentally, didn’t affirm the noumenon,
        he merely did not deny it, so he’s made room
        for my unorthodox constructions, and miracles,
        as a corollary, in general

        this was also Descartes’ dilemma essentially,
        or Shakespeare’s, “There are more things in
        heaven and earth, Horatio, / Than are dreamt
        of in your philosophy.”

        also my own

        we cannot beyond our consciousness affirm,
        we can only interpret, I am the only thing I can
        affirm, the rest is what you make it, for better
        or for worse, this from “the demented”, Nemo,
        Nietzsche

        therefore Beethoven or Proust, or maybe
        even me

        I believe in miracles, and so I experience them

        I’d asked a friend on a cold winter day with
        only icicles everywhere in the city, what
        should we do, let’s go out and look for
        beautiful things, he replied, we did, and all
        the icicles consequently shimmered and
        glistened, I’d found a key to finding beauty,
        another valuable parable

        later, needing more than just beautiful things
        to cheer me I asked for miracles, which, Nemo,
        like the earlier beautiful things, profusely in
        their turn abounded, you just have to be
        ready to receive them

        I believe there is a noumenon, but I’ll never
        be able to prove it, though I feel it profoundly,
        and judiciously sort out with the help of
        wisdom and poetry, truth and beauty, all
        I can muster, the information I receive

        I hope it might be of some service

        to me there is poetry behind everything,
        shimmering, glistening magic, but I’m not
        sure that’s what eveybody sees, nor want
        to see, I won’t try to impose my perspective,
        I can only tell what I see

        and I’ve long seen more than mere facts,
        what I see, have long seen, is an inherently
        transcendental reality

        which suggests the probability of other
        noumenal worlds

        so, to answer your question, I do think
        you indeed exist, though I can’t be
        absolutely sure of it, though you might
        not be a figment of my imagination you
        are nevertheless to me merely my
        impression of you, but who really are
        you, that’s a tricky question, cause you
        don’t even know

        meanwhile there’s no harm in sharing
        even a virtual, irony of ironies,
        conversation

        cheers

        Richard

      6. an egregious error, Nemo, on my part

        having read “Does the world [not] exist when
        the beholder closes his eye”, I answered,
        “I think not”

        my answer should’ve clearly been
        “I would think so”, for, indeed, I do
        think so

        Richard

  7. To apply Plotinus’ theory of memory to Alzheimer, and answer your earlier question. The disease damaged the first component of memory, i.e., our memory storage facility, but it leaves the second and third components intact, where “we” are most active. People afflicted with Alzheimer are no less human than the rest, because they still have their thoughts, emotions, desires, judgment and will.

    To use analogy, I’d liken living with Alzheimer to walking on the beach. Our memory is like the footprints we leave in the sand, which are constantly washed away by the waves, but the lack of footprints doesn’t prevent us from continue walking/living.

  8. I have no doubt that there is a soul, a human
    entity, behind even a vegetative living being,
    Nemo, let me tell you a story, I worked for
    years in a palliative care unit as a volunteer
    after the death of my beloved, who had died
    there in one of their first units in the late 80s,
    it was my way of saying thank you

    a woman there lay in extremis, making no
    sense of the fray that stirred ceaselessly
    about her, her family distraught over her
    perilous state fussing and worrying,
    helpless and trying to find nevertheless
    purpose midst unfamiliar and stressful
    feelings, awash in their stray, unsettled,
    energy

    their senior member, an actual pastor,
    asked if I would sit by their mother’s side
    while they all took a necessary break for
    lunch, of course I immediately acceded,
    that’s what I was there for

    gently I sat by her side, I had found
    solace in a particular Oriental esoteric
    faith meanwhile for my own debilitating
    anguish, which had bequeathed me a
    chant that would settle often and with
    reverence my most aggrieved moments,
    little by little it had rendered
    acknowledgment, resolve, and, dare I
    say, even grace, to my distress

    I began to murmur this chant as I lay my
    hand upon her arm, she all aflutter from
    her chronic delirium trying to find,
    hopelessly it appeared, a place to settle,
    I could only with my touch console
    somewhat, I wistfully imagined

    in my monotone I continued to issue
    the palliative vowel sounds, surrounding
    them with as much compassion and
    gentle harmony as I could muster,
    knowing that these must reach the soul,
    something I had been discovering from
    my own fraught experience

    her body began to settle, there was no
    question of reaching her mind, any kind
    of intelligible conversation, but you do
    that also with a very young child, and like
    a very young child she continued to
    respond

    to my chant, which had been like a river
    flowing, constant and murmuring, finding
    the most soothing paths of a trickling
    rhythm, she began to harmonize

    row, row, row, your boat, she began
    to sing, haltingly of course, at first
    tentatively, but then with more and
    more, though ever reliant, confidence

    I believe that God had been talking
    there to all of us, I turned to see the
    family standing in the doorway, still
    and hushed

    where, Nemo, does that leave philosophy

    therefore Proust

    Richard

    1. It’s very touching story, Richard. Thanks for sharing. Though the last sentence is a bit anti-climatic, since I have as much reverence for Proust as you Plato. 🙂

      For how long did you volunteer in the palliative care unit?

  9. so many pathways have opened up, Nemo,
    in our conversation, I’d determined to tackle
    them in their chronological order despite
    the immediacy, for me, of each question,
    each philosophical paradox you might
    propose, the order of your submissions

    but this reply of yours has me still laughing,
    indeed guffawing, and I didn’t want to forego
    the possibility of transferring the spontaneity
    and exhilaration of the moment if in delivering
    my response swiftly I could, timing talks, in
    other words, too

    that our views would be so diametrically
    opposed, my Proust your Plato, is, I think,
    hilarious, even, I believe, maybe karmic

    another story, another, for me, it appears,
    maybe parable, while grieving I’d taken
    time off work, cause work, of course, itself
    had lost all meaning, why would I hurt in a
    world I no longer wanted to even live in,
    I had majored in Camus, had been
    prodoundly influenced by his “L’Étranger”,
    “The Stranger”, and was drowning in the
    Absurd

    to while away the time somewhat productively
    – I’d understood that to merely sit and wait
    would not of itself allow me to die, and I wasn’t
    about to myself wittingly end it, the conclusion
    I’d reached from another revelatory moment,
    but that’s another story – I took on a job as a
    census worker, going from door to door,
    some hundreds of them, if not thousands,
    in my neighbourhood, introducing myself
    each time as their census taker, “This is
    the census”, I said

    have you even sensed the sibilants, Nemo,
    in that sentence, if you haven’t yet already
    counted them, for that matter, there are
    even more in this corollary one

    I lisp, not in a pronounced manner but,
    I’m aware, somewhat noticeably, found
    out that my father also did, though strangely
    I’d never registered it, my mother after he’d
    died, in a conversation with me, noted it

    try saying “This is the census” some
    hundreds if not thousands of times, Nemo,
    the joke becomes cosmic, and indeed it did,
    I knew God, or the entity that responded to
    my prayers, was about, it was the moment
    at which I first smiled, I think I might even
    have giggled

    I worked, or rather, I ministered, at palliative
    care for ten years, to answer your other
    question

    cheers

    Richard

    psst: despite our profound, it appears,
    philosophical divergences, Nemo,
    let’s be friends, I would not hold
    your views against you, all roads,
    I believe, lead to Rome, so long as
    it doesn’t block altogether one’s
    path

    also philosophers must always be
    open to the next question, for none
    of them, they know, can ever be
    definite, the lesson is in the
    conversation, and I’m having here
    a great time

    thank you

    1. Hi Richard,

      Have you thought of writing or already written memoirs? I think I’d enjoy reading them.
      Your second story reminded me of the Confessions by St. Augustine,
      in which he grieved over the death of his beloved friend.

      Descartes might say this about your “This is the census” moment: “I lisp, therefore I exist”.
      But how would you interpret the “parable”?

      What caused you to stop ministering at the palliative care unit after ten years?

  10. a parable is in the eye of the beholder, Nemo,
    nearly by definition, and therefore wide in the
    possible breadth of its interpretation, that wide
    net, should it catch the imagination of many,
    can describe a potent, though indefinable,
    moral precept that even whole communities
    can then propagate and follow, mysticized
    fairy tales, for these last serve a similar
    purpose, maybe the age of the listener,
    reader, here, is the distinguishing factor,
    adults have a hard time with fairy tales

    in the story that I told, about a cosmic
    dimension to my lisp, if you’re asking what
    moral precept I derived from that tale, it is
    that something was profoundly watching,
    unobtrusive, but gently ready to nudge just
    enough to inspire hope, like a second wind

    I felt, however solipsistically, that something,
    someone, was listening, and that was enough,
    that indeed would be, wouldn’t you think,
    though the information was entirely
    metaphorical and abstract

    but I’ve experienced too many moments of
    transcendence not to subsribe to a more
    than merely rational agenda, Shakespeare
    again, “There are more things in heaven and
    earth, Horatio, / Than are dreamt of in your
    philosophy.” – “Hamlet”, act 1, scene 5,
    lines 186–187 – which I heartily second

    no philosopher has ever admitted that but
    Proust and Beethoven, which is why I’ve
    somewhat put aside classic philosophy,
    though I love the Moralists, after Rome
    and before Christianity, Saint Augustine,
    I’m afraid, however, distorted the facts,
    as well as his great acuity, in order to
    entrench a mythology, the dominion of
    a numinous, entirely male, incidentally,
    Trinity, forcing Truth into a submissive,
    not to say penitent, and furthermore
    impotent, corner until the very Renaissance,
    specifically until Descartes, and, by the way,
    until his near contemporary, Shakespeare,
    1564 -1616, nearly the equal of Beethoven
    and Proust in his philosophical perspicacity,
    “To be, or not to be” is of course the first
    existential soliloquy of our era

    Descartes, 1596 – 1650

    after ten years at palliative care I had changed,
    and the unit had changed, it had become more
    regimented and constrictive than it had been in
    its early, more companionable, and not yet so
    regimented, years, I now had to go through
    security to get to my station, which was not at
    all the spirit in which I’d entered the service

    I also had gone on to other things

    I am now, I’m imagining, a poet, and live and
    write accordingly, these very missives, Nemo,
    are my memoirs, at present you are my main
    muse

    I hope you’re “enjoy[ing] reading them”

    Richard

  11. Richard,

    I like your comment, “I won’t try to impose my perspective, I can only tell what I see”, which reminded me of a sentimental story that I had heard a long time ago. The story was in first-person narrative and went like this:

    I [an art merchant] traveled to a far country on a business trip, and found lodging in a small family inn owned by an blind old man and his daughter. During an after-dinner conversation, I learned that the old man was actually a connoisseur of art with many famous paintings in his collection. Naturally I was delighted when he offered to show me the paintings. But his daughter was visibly distressed and signaled me to follow her.as she went to fetch the paintings. She explained to me that they had fallen on hard times and she had no choice but to sell the paintings to survive, in spite of the old man’s firm instructions that the paintings must not be sold, because they were his life. He had become blind due to sickness so he didn’t know that the paintings were all gone. When the daughter brought the blank frames to the old man, he proudly presented them to me, naming them one by one, while caressing them gently with his withered hands. Staring at the blank frames, I listened in silence and shock. Suddenly, the old man stopped, he sensed that something was missing, something didn’t feel quite right. What happened to his beloved painting? The daughter looked to me in desperation for help. I hesitated but finally mustered enough courage to speak. I picked up where the old man had left off, and, recalling from memory, I described the details of the paintings and complimented the old man’s taste. He beamed with pride and delight.
    ….
    There are many ways to interpret the story, one of which is this: if the “paintings” were all in the old man’s mind, and “I” had not seen them nor anybody else, it would be impossible to carry out the conversation, and there would be no sharing, nor inspiration, nor delight.

    This is the armchair Platonist’s answer to the demented Nietzsche: we are able to share our thoughts and feelings with one another, because we both behold the same underlying intelligible reality, both within ourselves and without. If we are only conscious of ourselves and nothing else, conversation would be impossible and pointless. Even Nietzsche, before he fell to dementia, couldn’t resist the desire for conversation since he published his works– as you say say rightly, philosophy is conversation. Otherwise, he could have kept all to himself, in his private notebook.

  12. your question is probing, Nemo, I’m not sure
    that even Plato would have come to such
    corollary conclusions as what you seem to
    be suggesting, which is to say that Plato’s
    absolutes, distant and distinct from us, as I
    understand them, as God, yet received by
    us a priori, or, inherently at birth, as you
    would have it, suggest the underlying
    existential commonality of our experience

    you forget the pivotal factor of birth here,
    Nemo, I think, incarnation, spirit, or
    something, made matter, like buds in
    spring, bursting with each its own
    unpredictable, and wondrous, existence

    my experience is that I cannot know even
    dimensions before I formally deduce them,
    before I enter this world, though the
    dimensions themselves may indeed be there

    who knew love, Nemo, before experiencing
    it, the thing that more than anything else
    moves our world, remember the adolescent
    who had to put it all together piece by
    disconcerting piece, we had to learn it all
    at the movies to finally make any kind of
    sense of it, playing out our battles in water
    too deep for most of us most of the time,
    and ultimately too treacherous for many

    there is mathematics, there are probably
    even dimensions, Nemo, but I don’t know
    about any other merely abstract world
    beyond this one, for better or for worse

    therefore Proust

    and therefore Beethoven

    Richard

    psst: your parable is delightful, even
    unforgettable, and it merely
    bolsters my recommended
    literary and musical advice

    1. Richard,

      You wrote, “my experience is that I cannot know even dimensions before I formally deduce them,”

      That is a unique experience. Einstein came to the same conclusion when he developed the Theory of Special Relativity, though perhaps he didn’t have quite the same experience. You both beheld the same underlying reality, although you expressed it in different ways.

      Plato’s Absolute, i.e., which is Beauty, Goodness and Truth in One, is immanent. It is distinct but not distant from us, and every soul can ascend to it by reason and intellect. There are different types and levels of beauty, in the human body, in nature, in the universe, in science and art, literature and music. One doesn’t have to be a “Superman” to see beauty or create beauty. Every life is an artistic activity. Every individual is an artist.

      The concept of Absolute by no means deny or diminish the freedom of individual existence. On the contrary, the more diverse and free the individual existence, the better and fuller it manifest Absolute Beauty. For instance, Beethoven’s Ninth, unless each member of the choir and orchestra plays his/her best part, the beauty of the symphony cannot be manifested nor experienced by the audience.

      Unlike Kant who believes that the noumenal is unknowable, Platonists reason that the noumenal and the phenomenal correspond with one another (sort of like the way an image in the mirror corresponds to the original), since they are both derived from one and the same intelligible reality. Because of this “correspondence”, it is possible to do science. We have been able to predict with accuracy the movement of the stars and other events occurring in nature; Because of this “correspondence” between our consciousness and the outside world, it is possible for us to interact with other people and the world.

  13. you say, Nemo, “Plato’s Absolute, i.e., which is
    Beauty, Goodness and Truth in One”, which
    seems to me anachronistic, a premature
    conflation with Christian, however implicit,
    thought, I don’t think Plato would’ve had a
    Trinity, whatever for in a society replete with
    a variety of quite serviceable, not to mention
    glorious, deities

    when you speak of “[e]very life”, “[e]very
    individual” being “an artistic activity”, “an
    artist”, what about animals, insects, trees,
    do roses perceive their own beauty, these
    are lives, even creative, even inspiring ones,
    though I draw the line at inspired, I suspect
    they don’t consciously know it

    therefore “Beauty, Goodness and Truth” are in
    the eye of the beholder, no, as we ask in
    French, and the beholder is our own human
    only, it appears, incarnation, blessed as we
    are, for better or for worse, with
    self-consciousness, ““Superm[e]n”” need
    not even, but only superfluously, apply

    the Tree of Knowledge bore the fruit of
    which all of us have partaken, for better or
    for worse, by our very nature, and we’ve
    created a poem around it in order to
    understand

    it has been mighty, if flawed

    about mirrors, when I yearned for word
    from above, or from wherever, I understood
    I’d have to forego my entrenched scepticism

    under the influence of Sartre and Camus,
    the Existentialists, whose ideas dominated
    the Western World, and my university years,
    however nowadays incredible, a time when
    Van Cliburn, a Classical music pianist,
    would return from a sealed Communist
    Russia, no less, to a New York ticker tape
    parade, a more idealistic time than our
    present more rapacious, morally bankrupt,
    apparently, epoch, I’d believed in Being
    and Nothingness, and the corollary Absurd,
    I was alone in an indifferent Universe

    to assume spirits, an extraterrestrial entity
    who might be responsive, would require
    an act of absolute faith, a profound
    disorder in my otherwise determinedly
    rational perspective

    but I had no choice but to succumb to
    even irrationality, I knew, for any chance
    of grace, you need to believe in miracles
    to experience them

    need I say that I found that transcendence,
    I called it crossing the Bridge of Faith

    where everything was the same but
    different, Nemo, like crossing through a
    mirror, like Alice, and discovering another,
    infinitely more enchanted, however
    numinous and otherworldly, world

    Richard

    1. Richard,

      Beauty, Goodness and Truth are a triad, but not all triads are Christian in origin or character. Belief in the unity of beauty and goodness is characteristic of the ancient Greeks, and Plato further demonstrate the unity of Beauty and Truth in Symposium. As for the “glorious” deities, their priests have no place or recognition whatsoever in Plato’s Republic, which is ruled by Reason.

      Plotinus has changed my way of looking at art, which is commonly defined as a human activity. Since Intellect permeates the world, art is not limited to human, but even plants and flowers, though they are not sentient beings, are capable of artistic activity. To use an analogy, a choreographer consciously designs the dance moves, but the dancers perform the moves.without being conscious of the whole design.

      Come to think of it, all human artists either imitate directly or draw inspiration from Providence. How can they deny the artistry of Providence, and then turn around call their plagiarism “art”?

      A mirror, in so far as it is a mirror, enables us to look at the world from a different angle, and presents to us features that have been hidden before, but it is still a reflection of the multifaceted reality. Since you found transcendence, have you experienced anything for which there is no counterpart in this world?

  14. you’ve gone off in so many different, doubtful
    to me, directions, Nemo, I don’t know where to
    start, then again I must sound ever the same
    to you whenever I write, there’s apparently
    much here we have to discuss

    but I think the central issue remains the
    possibility of a firm, which is to say, rational,
    understanding of the substance of our world,
    something you ardently affirm, but I, and the
    “demented” Nietzsche, incidentally, equally
    fervently mistrust, even deem fundamentally
    impossible

    Descartes, by the by, remained on the fence,
    he never found out what hit him, never realized
    what he’d done, but began nevertheless in his
    wake the irreversible march toward uncertainty,
    modernity, which we dressed up in the powerful
    attractions of science

    we’ve come a long way from superstition,
    we’re even presently on our way to Mars,
    we’ve even discovered what’s being called
    the God particle, but I think we’re still in
    Plato’s cave with respect to certain
    knowledge, we’re only seeing shadows,
    we can never see the sun

    there is surely an underlying reality, but
    you, I, we, can only imagine it, which is
    why we’re still wondering what it’s all
    about, despite having of course our
    kids and building our houses, we are
    compelled to invent our environments
    with the tools that we’ve been given

    I don’t think animals and plants are
    artists, we supply that moniker for
    them, some of us, to describe what
    we, some of us, can, but only really
    anthropomorphically, see, Fido will
    never acknowledge himself an artist,
    nor paint our picture, for instance, on
    his doghouse wall, no matter what
    Plotinus might’ve said to the contrary

    where do I get my own, ahem, inspiration,
    I will admit, not from me alone, but that
    doesn’t make me a plagiarist

    “have [ I ] experienced anything for which
    there is no counterpart in this world?”, all
    that I have experienced is in my world,
    unquestionably, I think it might have
    some conjunction with the one you
    call this one, but I’ll never be sure,
    I can only suspect

    all of this would be moot, Nemo, and indeed
    many will think one could better spend one’s
    time than at splitting these merely philosophical
    apparently tresses, were it not for their
    revolutionary consequences, men will kill, Nemo,
    to preserve their god – not ever, note, the plural
    here, never their “gods” – but their one imperious
    divinity, in the figure of a man, by the way, mostly,
    their Platonically inspired Ideal, their Platonic, but
    patently murderous, Absolute, I blame Plato for
    that, not Nietzsche

    and I blame the Christian Church, furthermore,
    for distorting the Platonic Trinity, your beautifully
    rendered “Beauty, Goodness and Truth”, though
    that’s something also, I think, of an anachronistic
    distortion

    cheers especially ever

    Richard

    1. Richard,

      You wrote, ” the possibility of a firm, which is to say, rational, understanding of the substance of our world, something you ardently affirm, but I, and the “demented” Nietzsche, incidentally, equally fervently mistrust, even deem fundamentally impossible

      If it is impossible to have a rational understanding of the world, of which Nietzsche is a part, then it is impossible to know what Nietzsche believes or “fervently mistrust”. Do you realize that your statements are contradicting your philosophy?

      I find your accusation of Plato irrational and groundless. How is belief in an objective Absolute Truth murderous? On the contrary, I think it is life-saving. For instance, it is wiser to accept that the Law of Gravity exists, than to disregard it and suffer the consequences of a bad fall. If anything, I think a philosophy that only acknowledges the existence of oneself and disregards all others is more likely to cause it’s adherents to commit murder, because other human beings are no more than phantoms in his sight.

      As for Fido being an artist, just give him a pint of paint, and you’ll find that he does indeed paint pictures. Some people call it “modern art”. What’s the difference between a plagiarist and an artist who imitates Providence but does not acknowledge the source of his inspiration?

      Nemo

      (P.S. I have not responded to your comments about Christianity, though I disagree with them, because I think it is beyond the scope of this discussion)

  15. you argue, Nemo, that one cannot “have a
    rational understanding of the world, of which
    Nietzsche is a part”, and profess to
    simultaneously “know what Nietzsche
    believes or “fervently mistrust[s]” ”

    but I do not profess to “know what Nietzsche
    believes or “fervently mistrust[s]’ ”, nor did I
    profess to “have a rational understanding of
    the world”, in the sense that I have all the
    answers, I am only expressing opinions,
    as informed as I can make them, an
    interpretation, as indeed I believe
    you yourself are

    therefore there is no contradiction in my
    opinion, the one you most vehemently
    seem to wish to reject, I do not profess
    certainty

    which might be what you are about to
    do

    but further

    the pursuit of an Absolute, an immutable
    standard, has too often, and therefore
    probably inherently, fallen prey to its
    dogma, crucifying, metaphorically of
    course but also otherwise, and often,
    opponents

    I’m afraid of pehaps sensing that most
    nefarious side in your often less than
    patient comments

    the Absolute imposed by the Catholic
    Church threw the Western World into
    the Dark Ages for an unbelievable
    1500 years, before we came out of
    our, indeed, Platonic cave

    I have no use for the Absolute as an
    abstraction, the Absolute can only
    be the sum of all the opinions of
    those who have, have had, will have,
    a notion about It, nothing otherwise

    but an opinion seems to be the way
    in which we find our path

    that seems to me closer to our answer

    and a free, respectful always, exchange
    of opinions, no matter how entrenched,
    seems to me the only manner in which
    to move forward, after all, how long was
    the earth believed to be flat before
    someone had the nerve, the verve, and
    the determination, to wonder about it

    in a world where everyone’s view is
    considered, a less certain world, we
    would be less willing to die, or kill,
    for any of our arbitrary ideas

    incidentally, these are the teachings of
    Jesus, remember, turn the other cheek

    read also Martha Nussbaum here, ever
    profoundly pertinently

    what else, Nemo, is, meanwhile, “beyond
    the scope of this discussion”

    or should we merely agree now to having
    disagreed

    let me say that it has been for me a
    delightful conversation that I would
    not want to see end, I think we could
    have a lot to learn from each other, but
    perhaps I’ve touched, however
    unintentionally, a nerve, for which I
    wholeheartedly apologize

    best wishes, of course, ever

    and cheers, no matter what

    Richard

    1. Richard,

      As I said at the very beginning, you are “sensitive”, and I was right, because you rightly perceived that I was becoming impatient. My apologies. Patience is not my forte. 🙂 However, you have not “touched a nerve”, as this is by no means an emotional discussion from my pov. I have no intention to “vehemently reject” your position (after all it is yours not mine), but only to share my perspective, including what I perceive to be irrational arguments.

      Here are the two statements you made;
      ” I, and the “demented” Nietzsche, incidentally, equally fervently mistrust, even deem fundamentally impossible”,
      “I do not profess to “know what Nietzsche believes or “fervently mistrust[s]‘”.

      Is that not a self-contradiction?

      You say that you’re making an interpretation. But, what is knowledge but an interpretation? A translation from the concrete and the objective to the abstract and subjective, just as we translate a work of literature from one language to another? By interpreting Nietzsche to yourself, you gain a rational understanding of him, and by interpreting him to others, you share that understanding.

      I think an important distinction should be made between a) the belief in the existence of Absolute Truth” and b) the belief of one’s monopoly of the Absolute Truth. You seem to be passionately rejecting b), which is quite understandable. But Platonism is not b) but a). It does not claim monopoly of the Absolute Truth, but instead, Plato and Socrates both exhort their listeners to pursue Beauty, Goodness and Truth, to pursue virtue, to be the lover of wisdom, which is the literal meaning of “philosophy”,

      According to Einstein, this pursuit of the Absolute Truth is also the guiding principle of the scientists. Without this passionate pursuit of the truth, we would never discover that the earth is not flat. Now think about this: Can you still insist that it is uncertain whether or not the earth is flat, that it is impossible to have a rational understanding of the shape of the earth?

      You argue that uncertainty makes people less likely to kill. But most people who kill are not driven by belief in the Absolute, but by their lust for pleasure, wealth and power. Some may kill in the name of Truth as a disguise for their ulterior motives, but it would be unfair and irrational to blame the Truth for their acts.

      I’ll refrain from discussing the Catholic Church, partly because to me this discussion is about Platonism, and Christianity is not Platonism (though they share many similar aspects), and partly because I’m not associated with the Catholic Church and frankly don’t know enough about it to say anything useful.

  16. first of all let me raise a glass to our conversation,
    a toast that it might live long

    and thank you for your continued respectful and
    penetrating participation, I will endeavour to as
    assiduously hold up

    that said, we get into, as I see it, the question
    posed by Wittgenstein, an obstacle of the
    most impenetrable sort, the egregious
    unreliability of language, what do you mean
    when you say something, and how does that
    synch with the other guy’s interpretation of it,
    or, indeed, girl’s

    your meat could be my poison, my Plato,
    your Proust

    indeed which one of us is right about this,
    is Plato a saint or a sinner, a boon or a
    blight

    though Proust, of course, would remain
    unquestionably and irreversibly here,
    ever, surely, for both of us, a benefactor
    of positively Promethean, natch,
    proportions

    what has become here then of the
    Absolute, gone up in a whiff of, just
    as insubstantial, smoke, the exhalations,
    note, of a fully material mens sana,
    sound mind, which can be nothing
    without the enveloping corpore sano,
    sound body

    should there, in the instance, however,
    be a One, an Absolute, we would not, nor
    can anyway ever, from our intrinsically
    divergent perspectives, be able to, in
    any meaningful way, know It

    more practically and topically, when
    my mother had her living room walls
    painted, my blue was her green, or vice
    versa, in either case adamantly, trying
    both of us to eke out from each other
    concessions to a position, undyingly,
    each, though ever politely, both, held,
    a model accommodation, which is to say,
    without the often attendant bombs

    we remained puzzled, however, each,
    ever, by insidious, and inescapable,
    doubt, who saw the right colour

    there is a technical solution to my mother’s
    wall, I know, but only after great psychological
    adjustment, even torment, will the blue think
    his or her visual impression another colour

    and who is mistaken

    or can some people be ever right,
    and ever wrong

    this, incidentally, is the central problem
    of philosophy, not just our own central
    topic

    and its resolution the central problem
    of politics

    in this instance when her cataracts were
    removed, her blue became green, or vice
    versa, I’d have to be in her apartment, I
    can’t remember which colour, right now,
    it was I saw, another philosophical
    conundrum, but surely, you get the
    picture, interpretation is highly
    subjective, and porous

    which is why Science requires absolutely
    unanimous approval, if you’ll forgive this
    metaphorical only use of that prickly
    adverb here, to determine Its still
    fundamentally ever tenuous theories

    we’ve even only recently deconstructed
    even time,

    or Time

    now there’s a God for you, Giver of context

    however, even there, It would appear arbitrary,
    there may be a another Reality beyond our
    particular three-dimensional Plato’s cave

    but I digress

    my misuse of the word “know” in citing
    my apparently contradictory statements,
    is at fault, I can never know, I can only
    interpret, with custom we have come to
    accept our suppositions as fact, and hope
    that everyone else will do the same, which
    we mostly do, except when we have wars
    because of some intractable position,
    where someone has set a price on his, her
    incontrovertible, but still fundamentally
    arbitrary, opinion, even of ownership,
    family structure, interpersonal affairs,
    like this one

    but we are talking with only air, no
    concrete certainty

    I believe Nietzsche, in other words, to
    have thought my thoughts, or I, rather,
    to have incorporated his, but that is only
    my understanding of it, which surely I
    propound, though I might quite possibly
    be wrong, but, Nemo, I can’t remember
    the last time I was, I could check, I keep
    a tally

    scientists, I believe, are indeed seeking
    always to know, perfecting their idea of
    Reality, but Truth can only be the sum
    of all things we think It is, nothing else,
    nothing more, after all what other entity
    that we know knows anything at all
    about It, about Truth

    we can only think there is a Real out
    there, and make the best of It, the rest
    is, Shakespeare again,

    “…………………………………. such stuff
    As dreams are made on; and our little life
    Is rounded with a sleep.”

    “The Tempest“ – act 4, scene 1
    lines 156 -158

    cheers ever

    Richard

    1. Richard,

      You wrote, ” should there, in the instance, however, be a One, an Absolute, we would not, nor can anyway ever, from our intrinsically divergent perspectives, be able to, in any meaningful way, know It”

      Our opinions are not “intrinsically”, but “accidentally” divergent. If they are intrinsic, they would not be affected by changes in our circumstances. But often times our opinions are affected by external circumstances. Therefore, they are not “intrinsic”. For instance, your story about the color of the wall reminds me of a similar story of how the English chemist John Dalton discovered color blindness. He himself was color blind but never realized it until his mother (or aunt) disagreed with him on the color. Without such a defect, there would be no disagreement.

      Truth cannot be a sum of opinions or even an unanimous decision of all people. Why? Because the sum of contrary opinions amount to nothing, and the sum of contradictory opinions only lead to confusion, since people are never unanimous about anything.

      To use a classic Platonic analogy: If you have a serious disease and want to be healed. Will you call everyone in from the street, hold a public assembly and have them vote for a treatment of your disease? Of course not. You’ll seek out the specialist in the field and have him examine you and give you the proper diagnosis and treatment. Because he possesses the knowledge, whereas the others don’t. Even a grain of truth is worth more than a boatload of false opinions.

      Having said the above, however, I agree that the truth may be multifaceted, like the color of light shining through a prism. Because our senses have their limitations, we can only see part of the spectrum, similarly, our rational faculty may also be limited, and we only see the Truth in part. This is why dialogues such as we’re having are meaningful. That we may see the rainbow, while not losing sight of our own color.

      “So please your majesty
      That we may wake the king: he hath slept long.”
      King Lear Act IV Scene VII

  17. oof, Nemo, again where do I start, I’ll try to
    tackle merely Truth here, deconstruct It, so
    that we can know what we’re even talking
    about

    what do you mean by Truth

    something corresponds to what it is that
    we see, hear, feel, I would think, to be
    locked in my head, my spirit, a fundamental
    unity, without the support of an underlying
    Reality, would be horrible, a profound, and
    unbearable, solitude, I don’t want any more
    to even try to imagine it, though, in my
    youthful invincibilty, I once did, it would
    nearly drive me, sometimes, I remember,
    crazy

    I would try to guess what people would
    say in their next breath and found that
    mostly I could do it, that mostly I could
    get it right, which didn’t do much for an
    outside Reality

    but, again, babies must learn to separate,
    not easily, their suddenly unfamiliar world
    from their initially undifferentiated senses,
    their identity from what we understand to
    be Reality, I’d been merely atavistically
    revisiting that fundamental experience

    I first fell in love, incidentally, when I met
    someone I wasn’t able to preempt, to my
    utter fascination, at which point I was
    forced to acknowledge not only Reality
    but also probably a Heaven, it has
    become a condition, I fall in love with
    only people from other planets, or, if
    you like, dimensions

    so, Nemo, I am also subservient to an
    ideal, or even an Ideal

    but it, or It, is my utter fabrication, though,
    manifestly, not an uninformed one

    my Truth is that ethereal, a bedrock,
    however, of my nevertheless basically
    nebulous view of life, made out of,
    indeed, thin air

    my opinions are therefore entirely
    speculative, except for my
    understanding of myself

    I think, according to Descartes, therefore
    I am, and of that, of myself, I am not at
    all speculative, for I think, listen

    Truth, incidentally, is a function of our
    species, assuming that it is a formal
    Reality is akin to placing ourselves,
    as we once did, at the centre of the
    Universe, we were apparently
    egregiously wrong about that, it
    seems to be generally now agreed,
    I suspect an Absolute, or Idealized,
    potential Reality, is asking for hubris,
    and too often, incidentally, we get it,
    see wars, torture, man’s inhumanity
    to not only man

    about the world which has mathematical
    dimensions we are mostly in agreement,
    two plus two will always equal four in our
    rational construct, and Science seems to
    flow pretty smoothly from that

    therefore Truth with respect to matter I
    will not question, it is the grid we are all
    at least comfortable with, like speaking
    the same language, despite its even
    basic insufficiencies, these fairly easy
    mostly to patch up with persistence
    and ingenuity

    but Plato’s Truth, Ideal, or Absolute, is
    of a more noumenal, spiritual, which is
    to say, abstract, order, and as such, like
    Beauty, is in the eye of the beholder,
    Truth is what we think it is

    is John Dalton wrong to have seen a
    divergent colour, and who could tell
    him that his blue was green, his red,
    orange, when these were categorically
    his impressions, dissent is a matter
    merely of concensus

    Truth, I believe, is our accommodation,
    and is no more than the sum of its
    collective parts, the truths that
    scientists unearth are Science, not
    Truth, Reality, not Wisdom

    other worlds would have entirely
    different conceptions of the Universe
    for being other than we, us

    we are assuming we have the answer,
    Nemo, to imponderables

    therefore, not Philosophy, I insist,
    but Art, and metaphorical rather
    than categorical ideologies

    see Beethoven for that, and / or Proust

    Richard

    psst: according to these two excellent
    programs,

    1 http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=44h9QuWcJYk

    2 http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tyddgzJF3-M

    two parts of an interview with an
    authority on Descartes, I could’ve
    easily been a figment of his
    imagination for sounding nearly
    word for word, to my surprise
    and delight, very much like him

    though he probably wouldn’t’ve,
    by my calculations, therefore,
    have loved me

  18. this poem, Nemo, my most recent
    favourite, seems particularly
    germane to our conversation

    To These Eyes

    You only ones
    I ever knew
    you that have shown me
    what I came to see
    from the beginning
    just as it was leaving
    you that showed me the faces
    in the realms of summer
    the rivers the moments of gardens
    all the roads that led here
    the smiles of recognition
    the silent rooms at nightfall
    and have looked through the glasses
    my mother was wearing when she died
    you that I have never seen
    except nowhere in a mirror
    please go on showing me
    faces you led me to
    daylight the bird moment
    the leaves of morning
    as long as I look
    hoping to catch sight
    of what has not yet been seen

    W.S. Merwin

    cheers

    Richard

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